The House on Wednesday passed a package of gun control measures by a 223-204 vote in the first major policy response to the school shootings that killed 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas., with five Republicans joining Democrats to vote for the measure.
The handful of Republicans backing the measure were retiring Reps. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) and Fred Upton (Mich.), Chris Jacobs (N.Y.), Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio), and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.).
But the measure was certain to run smack into a Senate filibuster. A bipartisan group of senators has been negotiating on the chamber’s own response to the shootings, with President Joe Biden keeping tabs on progress while maintaining distance after calling for a spate of gun control measures.
Two Democrats, Jared Golden (Maine) and Kurt Schrader (Ore.), voted against it.
The vote came after the chamber voted to raise the the minimum age for semi-automatic weapons purchases by a vote of 228-199.
The vote came as part of a larger package of gun control legislation, as lawmakers in the House and Senate debate responses to the horrific shootings – amid a deep split over new proposed gun restrictions.
The new proposal to raise the age for purchasers comes after 18-year-olds committed mass shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo – an event that resulted in 10 deaths.
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 purchasing a semi-automatic rifle and prohibit the sale of ammunition magazines with a capacity of more than 15 rounds.
The legislation has almost no chance of becoming law as the Senate pursues negotiations focused on improving mental health programs, bolstering school security and enhancing background checks. But the House bill does allow Democratic lawmakers a chance to frame for voters in November where they stand on policies that polls show are widely supported.
‘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 are demanding,’ said Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas. ‘Take note of who is with you and who is not.
The House voted to raise the minimum age for purchasing semi-automatic weapons from 18 to 21
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during a protest near Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 8, 2022, sponsored by Everytown for Gun Safety and its grassroots networks, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action. Protesters are demanding that Congress act on gun safety issues
‘Why would someone be against raising the age so that teenagers do not have AK-47s?” asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier Wednesday
‘Yes, they say mental health issues. Yes, we want to address mental health issues. Other countries have mental health issues. They don’t have a gun violence epidemic.’
The House is voting on separate titles of the bill before taking a final vote.
Over in the Senate, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a lead negotiator in the legislative response to the massacres, reiterated his 2nd Amendment views in a floor speech that didn’t tout any of the gun control measures Democrats are touting.
Uvalde fourth-grader Miah Cerrillo testified about surviving the mass shooting at her school
MiguelÂ Cerrillo, the father of Miah Cerrillo a fourth-grade student at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, wipes his eye as he testifies during a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on gun violence on Capitol Hill, June 8, 2022 in Washington, DC
He said the symptoms ‘are a symptom of a larger problem,’ and pointed comments at ‘failure of our mental health system in America.’
The push comes after a House committee heard wrenching testimony from recent shooting victims and family members, including from 11-year-old girl Miah Cerrillo, who covered herself with a dead classmate´s blood to avoid being shot at the Uvalde elementary school.
The seemingly never-ending cycle of mass shootings in the United States has rarely stirred Congress to act. But the shooting of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde has revived efforts in a way that has lawmakers from both parties talking about the need to respond.
‘It’s sickening, it’s sickening that our children are forced to live in this constant fear,’ said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Pelosi said that the House vote would ‘make history by making progress.’ But it’s unclear where the House measure will go after Wednesday’s vote, given that Republicans were adamant in their opposition.
The House Speaker blasted lawmakers who didn’t support the stricter gun control measures before the House, saying their ‘political survival is totally insignificant compared to the survival of our children.’
Dressed in an orange suit – orange is the color used to symbolize gun violence victims – the speaker took the House floor ahead of votes on eight gun reform bills to deliver a rousing speech calling for their passage.
She waved her arm in the air as she talked about the numerous mass shootings around the country and particularly those in schools.
‘Does that embarrass you – to think that more children have died in our country from gun violence than any other cause?,’ Pelosi said.
‘It’s sickening that our children are forced to live in this constant fear,’ she added.
She encouraged lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to support the bills, which include provisions to limit magazine sizes, increase the age to buy assault rifles, set standards for gun storage and codify regulations on ghost guns and bump stocks.
‘To those moment of silence is good enough, if you don’t have the courage to take the vote to protect the children, I would say your political survival is totally insignificant compared to the survival of our children,’ she said.
Republican negotiator Sen. John Cornyn has repeatedly stressed hardening schools and school doors and focused on mental health issues
Speaker Nancy Pelosi blasted lawmakers who didn’t support the stricter gun control measures before the House, saying their ‘political survival is totally insignificant compared to the survival of our children’
Republican members of the House Second Amendment Caucus, from left, Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., Rep. Mary Miller, R-Ill., and Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., talk to reporters as they criticize a series of Democratic measure to curb gun violence in the wake of the mass shootings at a school in Uvalde, Texas, and a grocery in Buffalo, N.Y., at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, June 8, 2022
Pelosi was surrounded by rows of Democratic lawmakers as she spoke.
Earlier, she had asked lawmakers to be there for the full period of debate on the bills, which is expected to last all afternoon, ‘on behalf of the survivors of gun violence, and out of respect for those who lost their lives.’
The recent rash of mass shootings, including ones at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, have put pressure on lawmakers to pass some type of legislation. Those two shootings last month – just nine days apart – left 31 people dead.
President Joe Biden also has encouraged Congress to act and referred to Tuesday night’s primary results where voters, particularly in California, showed their frustration with rising crime rates.
‘The voters sent a clear message last night. Both parties have to step up and do something about crime as well as gun violence,’ Biden said before he headed to Los Angeles to host the Summit of the Americas.
‘The answer is not to destroy the Second Amendment, but that is exactly where the Democrats want to go,’ said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.
The work to find common ground is mostly taking place in the Senate, where support from 10 Republicans will be needed to get a bill signed into law. Nearly a dozen Democratic and Republican senators met privately for an hour Wednesday in hopes of reaching a framework for compromise legislation by week´s end. Participants said more conversations were needed about a plan that is expected to propose modest steps.
In a measure of the political peril that efforts to curb guns pose for Republicans, five of the six lead Senate GOP negotiators do not face reelection until 2026. They are Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, John Cornyn of Texas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. The sixth, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, is retiring in January. It´s also notable that none of the six is seeking the Republican presidential nomination.
While Cornyn has said the talks are serious, he has not joined the chorus of Democrats saying the outlines of a deal could be reached by the end of this week. He told reporters Wednesday that he considers having an agreement before Congress begins a recess in late June to be ‘an aspirational goal.’
The House bill stitches together a variety of proposal Democrats had introduced before the recent shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde. The suspects in the shootings at the Uvalde, elementary school and Buffalo supermarket were both just 18, authorities say, when they bought the semi-automatic weapons used in the attacks. The bill would increase the minimum age to buy such weapons to 21.
‘A person under 21 cannot buy a Budweiser. We should not let a person under 21 buy an AR-15 weapon of war,’ said Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif.
Republicans have noted that a U.S. appeals court ruling last month found California´s ban on the sale of semiautomatic weapons to adults under 21 was unconstitutional.
‘This is unconstitutional and it’s immoral. Why is it immoral? Because we’re telling 18, 19 and 20-year-olds to register for the draft. You can go die for your country. We expect you to defend us, but we’re not going to give you the tools to defend yourself and your family,’ said Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky.
The House bill also includes incentives designed to increase the use of safe gun storage devises and creates penalties for violating safe storage requirements, providing for a fine and imprisonment of up to five years if a gun is not properly stored and is subsequently used by a minor to injure or kill themselves or another individual.
It also builds on the Biden administration´s executive action banning fast-action ‘bump-stock’ devices and ‘ghost guns’ that are assembled without serial numbers.
The House is also expected to approve a bill Thursday that would allow families, police and others to ask federal courts to order the removal of firearms from people who are believed to be at extreme risk of harming themselves or others.
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia currently have such ‘red flag laws.’ Under the House bill, a judge could issue an order to temporarily remove and store the firearms until a hearing can be held no longer than two weeks later to determine whether the firearms should be returned or kept for a specific period.
House Republican Leadership is encouraging all their lawmakers to vote against the final package, known as the Protecting Our Kids Act.
Rep. Steve Scalise conceded that some Republicans may vote for certain provisions in the series of eight votes but said, overall, the GOP was pushing to vote no on the final package.
He compared the mass shootings in schools to the September 11th terrorist attacks.
‘Airplanes were used that day, as the weapon to kill thousands of people and to inflict terror on our country. There wasn’t a conversation about banning airplanes,’ he said Wednesday.
Despite the GOP opposition, the package of bills is expected to pass the House where Democrats hold the majority.
It is unlikely to pass the Senate, where at least 10 Republican votes are needed to reach the 60-vote threshold to advance legislation and overcome a Republican filibuster.