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Protect our Kids Act 2022: House Judiciary Committee moves forward gun bill to raise age limit after recent mass shootings

WASHINGTON — A House panel on Thursday pushed ahead with legislation that would raise the age limit for buying a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21, as Democrats reacted quickly to put their stamp on gun legislation in response to mass shootings in Texas and New York by attackers who used such weapons to kill 31 people, including 19 children.

The vote came as President Joe Biden delivered a prime-time speech about the shootings, telling Americans, “Let’s hear the shout and the scream, let’s make the moment, let’s finally do something.”

At the judiciary committee hearing, which lasted more than nine hours, the partisans’ positions were clear. In addition to raising the age limit for purchasing semi-automatic rifles, the bill would also make it a federal offense to import, manufacture or possess large-capacity magazines and create a grant program to buy back such magazines.

It also builds on the government’s executive order banning fast-acting “bump-stock” devices and “ghost weapons” that are assembled without serial numbers.

The final vote to move the bill forward was 25-19, with Democrats accounting for all yes votes and Republicans accounting for all no votes.

The Democratic bill, dubbed the Protecting Our Kids Act, was quickly added to the legislative list after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas last week. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., vowed in a letter to Democratic colleagues Thursday that the House will vote on the measure next week, and she promised more votes in the coming weeks, including a bill to create an Amber Alert Stil’s notification during a mass shooting. Pelosi also promised a hearing on a bill banning military-style semi-automatic rifles.

However, with Republicans almost all in opposition, the House of Representatives’ action will be mostly symbolic, merely briefing lawmakers on gun control ahead of this year’s election. The Senate takes a different tack as a bipartisan group seeks a compromise on gun safety legislation that can garner enough GOP support to become law. Those talks are making “rapid progress,” according to Senator Susan Collins of Maine, one of the Republican negotiators.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, DN.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, defended his chamber’s proposals, which are popular with most Americans. He dismissed Republican criticism.

“You’re saying it’s too soon to take action? That we are ‘politicizing’ these tragedies to issue new policies?” said Nadler. “It’s 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 the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.”

“Too soon? My friends, what the hell are you waiting for?”

Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the committee, said nobody wanted another tragedy. But he insisted the House bill would do nothing to stop mass shootings.

“We seriously need to understand why this keeps happening. Democrats are always fixated on curtailing the rights of law-abiding citizens rather than trying to understand why this evil is happening,” Jordan said. “Until we figure out why, we will always mourn losses without facing the issue. Our job is to find out why.”

RELATED: Biden urges more gun control after mass shootings: ‘Why do we keep letting this happen?’

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

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

“That’s what they want on their 18th birthday, is an offensive weapon? They have a problem, which means we have a problem, which means these 19 kids and their parents and these two teachers have a problem forever “Cohen said, referring to the victims in Uvalde.

RELATED: Tulsa mass shooter who killed 4 allegedly gunned down his doctor after asking for help with pain

But Rep. Dan Bishop, RN.C., pointed to a US Circuit Court of Appeals ruling last month that found California’s ban on the sale of semi-automatic weapons to adults under the age of 21 unconstitutional.

“I can tell you this, and let me be clear, you’re not going to bully yourself into depriving Americans of their basic rights,” Bishop said.

The hearing included emotional pleas from Democratic lawmakers for Congress to respond to the mass shooting after years of deadlock on gun issues, one of the most compelling from Georgia Rep. Lucy McBath.

She recalled how her son Jordan was shot dead at a gas station by a man who was complaining about the loud music he was listening to. She said she dreams of who he would have become. She said racial prejudice led to his death and that of 10 black Americans in Buffalo last month and is being “repeated with casual callousness and despicable frequency” in the United States.

“We all understand that the murder of our children cannot continue,” McBath said. “And we have solutions that a majority of Americans believe in. It’s sensible compromises that will keep American children alive.”

Several lawmakers remotely attended the hearing, including Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., who brandished various handguns to argue that the bill’s provision banning large-capacity magazines of more than 10 rounds added to this lead to prevent law-abiding citizens from buying guns of their choice.

When Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, noted that she hoped one of the guns Steube was holding wasn’t loaded, Steube replied, “I’m at my house, I can do with my guns, what I want.” It was one of several deliberate exchanges during the hearing.

Any legislative response to the Uvalde and Buffalo shootings must come through the evenly divided Senate, where the support of at least 10 Republicans would be required to bring the measure to a final vote. A group of senators worked privately this week to find a consensus.

Ideas discussed include expanding background checks on gun purchases and incentivising warning signs that allow family members, school officials and others to go to court and obtain warrants requiring police to confiscate guns from people who are considered a threat to themselves or others.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

https://abc13.com/gun-control-bill-house-judiciary-committee-protect-our-kids-act/11920386/ Protect our Kids Act 2022: House Judiciary Committee moves forward gun bill to raise age limit after recent mass shootings

Dais Johnston

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