House readies vote on package of gun control bills in response to Buffalo and Uvalde shootings


WashingtonThe Democrat-led House on Wednesday will move forward with legislation that tightens the nation’s gun laws, as lawmakers in both chambers mount a response to a pair of mass shootings in New York and Texas that jolted the nation.

Following debate on the House floor, the lower chamber is poised to vote on the “Protecting Our Kids Act,” a package of eight gun control bills that cleared the House Judiciary Committee along party lines last week. House Republican leaders are urging their members to vote against the measure, arguing it is a “reactionary package” composed of proposals that violate Americans’ Second Amendment rights and hinders their ability to protect themselves.

Despite GOP opposition, the legislation is still expected to pass the House, though it is unlikely to win approval by the 50-50 Senate, where 60 votes are needed for bills to overcome a filibuster and advance. In the upper chamber, a bipartisan group of senators have been working on a more tailored plan to curb gun violence, and negotiators are aiming to reach consensus on a measure by the end of the week.

Still, Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut who is one of the leading negotiators, said Tuesday during an event at a gun violence memorial on the National Mall that the House bill will put pressure on the Senate to “do the right thing.”

While senators continue working to reach common ground on legislation to reform firearms laws, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her Democratic colleagues in a letter Tuesday that the “urgent” package to be taken up later Wednesday includes provisions that will “save lives and give hope.”

She requested all Democrats be present on the House floor for the two hours of debate leading up to the vote in a show of support for the survivors of gun violence and those who have been killed.

Swiftly moved by lawmakers following the massacres at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, and an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, which together claimed the lives of 31 adults and children, the Protecting Our Kids Act would raise the minimum age to purchase a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21 years old and ban large-capacity magazines. The legislation also incentivizes safe storage of firearms and establishes requirements regulating storage of guns on residential premises, and builds on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms’ regulatory ban on bump stocks, which allow semiautomatic rifles to fire more rapidly. 

The lower chamber will also consider this week a plan from Rep. Lucy McBath, a Democrat from Georgia who lost her son to gun violence, that would allow family members and law enforcement to obtain from a federal court an extreme risk protection order to temporarily remove access to firearms to those deemed a danger to themselves or others.

In response to the shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, President Joe Biden has pressured Congress to send legislation to his desk strengthening federal gun laws. In an address to the nation last week, the president repeatedly declared “enough” as he mourned the lives lost to gun violence.

“How much carnage are we willing to accept? How many more innocent American lives must be taken before we say enough? Enough,” the president said.

Biden, as he has done before, called for lawmakers to reinstate the 1994 ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, which has since expired, strengthen background checks, and enact safe-storage and red-flag laws. He also pushed Congress to repeal the immunity that shields gun manufacturers from liability.

But many of those proposals are unlikely to gain traction among Republicans in the Senate, and members involved in the negotiations have instead been discussing a narrow plan that included more funding for mental health resources, expanding background checks and incentivizing states to enact red-flag laws.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday that members are “hoping to actually get an outcome that will make a difference in the areas of mental health, school safety and things that are related to the incidents that occurred in Texas and Buffalo.”

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