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House passes extensive gun control measure; future uncertain in Senate

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Casey Harper | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – The U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday evening to pass the “Protecting Our Kids Act," a package of gun control bills developed in response to the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas.

The House voted on pieces of the legislation separately. 

Passing the measure sends the gun control legislation to the U..S. Senate, which is in its own discussions over similar measures.

The legislation would, among other things, ban certain high-capacity magazines and require an individual be 21 to purchase a semiautomatic rifle. Currently, someone must be 18 years old to make that purchase.

It would also institute new regulations around gun storage and create multiple new criminal penalties.

The House Judiciary Committee advanced the bill last week with 19 committee members opposed.

According to the office of U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., who chairs that committee, the bill would statutorily ban “the manufacture, sale, or possession of bump stocks for civilian use” and “establish requirements to regulate the storage of firearms on residential premises” and “create criminal penalties for violation of the requirements.”

The measures are not expected to get the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate, but it is not impossible. Some Democrats have called for ending the filibuster to pass the legislation, but that position does not have full support.

“The filibuster is the only thing that prevents us from total insanity,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, R-W.V., who has been a swing vote on multiple controversial pieces of legislation. “Total insanity.”

In response to mass shootings, Republicans have called for an emphasis on mental health issues, saying they have largely gone unaddressed and been eclipsed by the debate over gun control.

The House Oversight Committee held a hearing on the recent gun violence Wednesday, which included testimony from some present at the shootings who relayed the pain of their experiences.

At the hearing, Ranking Member on the committee Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., acknowledged the recent violence and also pointed to the rise in violent crime in 2020 in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd and the ensuing riots. He argued this and other violence only accentuates Americans’ right to self-defense.

“As elected representatives in Congress, it’s our obligation to work to ensure that these violent crimes and tragedies never happen again,” he said at the hearing. "Americans of all backgrounds should be empowered to defend themselves against rising violence. The increased violence we have witnessed since the summer of 2020 is unacceptable. Murders and aggravated assaults are all up. This is a trend we must work to reverse.

“I strongly believe that there is an important place for law-abiding gun owners to serve in protecting themselves, their families, and their communities from violence,” he added.

He also pushed for supporting law enforcement to address the rise in violent crime around the country.

“I also believe we must continue to empower our law enforcement professionals to serve and protect our communities honorably,” Comer added. “As I said before, defund the police and soft on crime prosecution policies have been a failure across the board. Efforts to divert violent criminals out of the criminal justice system have failed, leading to the victimization of the very communities those policies were promised to help.”