The renewed push to ban certain semi-automatic weapons comes nearly two decades after Congress allowed similar restrictions to expire. The original ban was passed in 1994, led by the then senator. Joe Biden, and banned certain semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines, although he exempted about 1.5 million of these weapons and 25 million that were already American-owned.
In the nearly three decades since, mass shootings have become commonplace in the United States, with semi-automatic weapons often used in attacks on schools, workplaces, public spaces, stores , churches and other gathering places.
“The sole purpose of an assault weapon is to kill people effectively,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-NY., the Judiciary Chairman, said Wednesday as the committee took the action. “It’s time to protect our communities and ban them again.”
Republicans on the committee opposed the proposal, calling it an attack on Second Amendment rights.
“Democrats know this legislation won’t reduce violent crime or the likelihood of mass shootings, but they are obsessed with attacking the Second Amendment freedoms of law-abiding Americans,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, the most big republican of the committee. “For more than 30 years, Democrats have waged a propaganda campaign to trick people into believing that ‘assault weapons’ are a specific class of gun that no one needs.”
The committee listened to the haunting audio of the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people were killed and 17 injured. Dozens of rapid gunfire could be heard in just 1 minute and 18 seconds, along with the cries of distress from those trying to escape.
“There are more guns than people in this country, more mass killings than days in the year. This is a uniquely American problem, and assault weapons only amplify the epidemic,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. David Cicilline, DR.I., at the end of the audio. .
Wednesday’s hearing also comes in the wake of a July 4 mass shooting at a parade in Highland, Illinois, and back-to-back mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas.
The carnage in South Texas killed 19 school-aged children, some of whose bodies were unidentifiable to their parents. Under pressure to act, Congress last month passed the largest gun violence measure in decades. It included background checks on gun buyers between the ages of 18 and 21 as well as the allocation of public funds to enact local “red flag” laws.
But the bill fell far short of the measures Biden and Democrats say are needed to curb the epidemic of gun violence in the country. Many say the killings won’t stop until tougher gun controls are enacted.
“We pay for these weapons of war on our streets with the blood of our children sitting in our schools,” said Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Ga., whose 17-year-old son was fatally shot at a gas station in 2012. .
Cicilline said Second Amendment protection is not without limits. He said the Democratic proposal focuses on assault rifles, which aren’t what the majority of law-abiding Americans buy and own.
“Dangerous military weapons that were created to fight on the battlefield and slaughter enemies have no place in the neighborhoods, schools and cinemas where we live,” he added.
Democrats can afford to lose just four Democrats if Republicans are united in opposition. Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, who represents a red-leaning district, said he won’t vote to ban semi-automatics.
“I don’t support any version of that,” Golden said.
Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report.