WASHINGTON (AP) — The House is moving quickly to pass gun legislation in response to recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, that would raise the age limit for buying a gun semi-automatic and would prohibit the sale of magazine ammunition with a capacity of more than 15 rounds.
The legislation has almost no chance of becoming law as the Senate continues negotiations focused on improving mental health programs, strengthening school safety and improving background checks. But the House bill gives Democratic lawmakers a chance to outline for voters in November their position on policies that polls show have broad support.
“We can’t save every life, but my God, shouldn’t we try? America, we hear you and today in the House we are taking the action you demand,” said Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas. “Note who is with you and who is not.”
LOOK: Surviving families and classmates of Uvalde victims testify about gun violence in House hearing
The House votes on separate titles of the bill before proceeding to a final vote. The part increasing the minimum age for semi-automatic purchases was approved by a vote of 228-199.
The push comes after a House committee heard heartbreaking testimony from recent shooting victims and family members, including 11-year-old girl Miah Cerrillo, who covered herself in the blood of a comrade class died to avoid being shot at Uvalde Primary School.
The seemingly endless cycle of mass shootings in the United States has rarely prompted Congress to act. But the shooting of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde reinvigorated the effort in a way that has lawmakers on both sides talking about the need to respond.
“It’s sickening, it’s sickening that our children have to live in this constant fear,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Pelosi said the House vote would “make history by making progress.” But it’s unclear where the House measure will go after Wednesday’s vote, given Republicans were adamant in their opposition.
“The answer is not to destroy the Second Amendment, but that’s exactly where Democrats want to go,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.
The work to find common ground is mostly taking place in the Senate, where the support of 10 Republicans will be needed to get a bill signed. Nearly a dozen Democratic and Republican senators met privately for an hour Wednesday in hopes of reaching a framework for compromise legislation by the end of the week. Participants said more conversations were needed on a plan that should come up with modest milestones.
In a measure of the political peril that efforts to limit guns pose to Republicans, five of the six top GOP negotiators in the Senate will not be reelected until 2026. Those are the meanings. Bill Cassidy from Louisiana, Susan Collins from Maine, John Cornyn from Texas, Lindsey Graham from South Carolina and Thom Tillis from North Carolina. The sixth, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, is retiring in January. It’s also worth noting that none of the six are seeking the Republican presidential nomination.
While Cornyn said the talks were serious, he did not join the chorus of Democrats saying the outlines of a deal could be in place by the end of this week. He told reporters on Wednesday that he considered a deal before Congress begins a recess at the end of June to be “an ambitious goal.”
The House bill brings together a variety of proposals that Democrats had introduced before the recent shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde. The suspects in the Uvalde, Elementary School and Buffalo Supermarket shootings were both just 18 years old, authorities said, when they purchased the semi-automatic weapons used in the attacks. The bill would raise the minimum age to purchase such weapons to 21.
“A person under 21 cannot buy a Budweiser. We shouldn’t let anyone under the age of 21 buy an AR-15 weapon of war,” said Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif.
Republicans noted that a U.S. appeals court ruling last month found that California’s ban on selling semi-automatic weapons to adults under 21 was unconstitutional.
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“It is unconstitutional and immoral. Why is this immoral? Because young people aged 18, 19 and 20 are told to sign up for the draft. You can go die for your country. We expect you to stand up for us, but we’re not going to give you the tools to stand up for yourself and your family,” said Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky.
The House bill also includes incentives designed to increase the use of secure firearm storage devices and creates penalties for violations of secure storage requirements, including a fine and possible imprisonment. up to five years if a weapon is not properly stored and then used by a minor. to injure or kill themselves or another person.
It also builds on the Biden administration’s executive action banning “bump-stock” quick-acting devices and “ghost guns” that are assembled without a serial number.
The House is also expected to approve a bill on Thursday that would allow families, police and others to petition federal courts to order the removal of firearms from people who are at extreme risk of harm or harm. hurt others.
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia currently have such “red flag laws.” Under the House bill, a judge could order the guns to be temporarily removed and stored until a hearing can be held no later than two weeks later to determine whether the guns should be returned or retained for a specified period.
Associated Press writer Alan Fram contributed to this report.