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House panel swiftly takes up gun bill after mass shootings

by The Associated Press | June 3, 2022 at 12:00 a.m.
With photos of the young victims in Uvalde, Texas, behind her, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, speaks in support of Democratic gun control measures, called the Protecting Our Kids Act, in response to mass shootings in Texas and New York, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 2, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

By KEVIN FREKING

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House is swiftly working to put its stamp on gun legislation in response to mass shootings in Texas and New York by 18-year-old assailants who used semi-automatic rifles to kill 31 people, including 19 children.

Debate on the legislation came as the the White House announced that President Joe Biden would give a prime-time speech about the shootings and his plans to press Congress "to pass commonsense laws to combat the epidemic of gun violence that is taking lives every day."

Partisan positions were clear at a Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday on legislation that would raise the age limit for purchasing semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21. The bill also would make it a federal offense to import, manufacture or possess large-capacity magazines and would create a grant program to buy back such magazines.

It also builds on the administration's executive action banning fast-action "bump-stock" devices and "ghost guns" that are assembled without serial numbers.

The Democratic legislation, called the Protecting Our Kids Act, was quickly added to the legislative docket after last week's school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

But with Republicans nearly all in opposition, the House action will mostly be symbolic, merely putting lawmakers on record about gun control ahead of this year's elections. The Senate is taking a different course, with a bipartisan group striving toward a compromise on gun safety legislation that can win enough GOP support to become law. Those talks are making "rapid progress," according to Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, one of the Republican negotiators.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, defended his chamber's proposals as popular with most Americans. He dismissed Republican criticism.

"You say that it is too soon to take action? That we are 'politicizing' these tragedies to enact new policies?" Nadler said. "It has been 23 years since Columbine. Fifteen years since Virginia Tech. Ten years since Sandy Hook. Seven years since Charleston. Four years since Parkland and Santa Fe and Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh."

A chief feature of the House bill requires those buying semi-automatic weapons to be at least 21. Only six states require someone to be at least 21 years old to buy rifles and shotguns. The shooters in Uvalde and Buffalo, New York, both were 18 and used an AR-15-style weapon.

Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., said that it should be a red flag when an 18-year-old wants to buy "an assault weapon."

Several lawmakers participated in the hearing remotely, including Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., who brandished various pistols in arguing that the bill's provision banning large-capacity magazines of more than 10 rounds amounted to stopping law-abiding citizens from purchasing guns of their choice.

When Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, remarked that she hoped one of the guns Steube was holding was not loaded, Steube replied, "I'm in my house, I can do whatever I want with my guns." It was one of several pointed exchanges during the hearing.

Print Headline: House panel swiftly takes up gun bill after mass shootings

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