- The Washington Times - Friday, July 15, 2022

House Judiciary lawmakers plan to consider legislation next week banning certain semi-automatic firearms, even though Democrats acknowledge it has no chance of becoming law.

The new assault weapons ban bill, introduced by Rep. David Cicilline, Rhode Island Democrat, does not call for confiscating any firearms. But the legislation would ban the manufacturing or sale of new weapons.

The proposal would make it unlawful for a person to import, sell, manufacture, or transfer certain semi-automatic rifles, including those that can accept a detachable magazine and have at least one of the following military features: pistol grip; forward grip; folding, telescoping, or detachable stock; grenade launcher; barrel shroud; or threaded barrel.

Mr. Cicilline’s bill has 211 co-sponsors, none of whom are Republicans. It’s scheduled to be marked up in the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.  

But Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican who led the GOP side of negotiations on a significant gun control measure signed into law by President Biden last month, has indicated that Republicans have no more plans to take up new gun control legislation in the 50-50 Senate.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold R. Nadler told The Washington Times he is confident that although the bill is likely to stop short in the House, it will serve as a reminder to voters in this election cycle that Democrats want to pass the ban and get it to Mr. Biden’s desk.

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“It’s something that ought to pass,” he said. Mr. Nadler said voters need to elect more Democrats, including in the Senate, to approve such a ban.

Mr. Nadler said polls show that gun control, including an assault-weapons ban, is “overwhelmingly popular” and that Democrats representing swing districts should not be concerned about supporting such legislation.

According to a Gallup poll released last month, support for an assault weapons ban among Americans had dropped to 55% since August 2019. The dip is owed mainly to a 12-point decline among Republicans, who did not support gun control measures as much during 2020.

The Associated Press conducted a poll on support for the measure in May, the same weekend of the deadly mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and 51% favored a nationwide ban.

“The American people support Congress taking steps to improve their public safety and deal with the carnage that we see in terms of mass shooting after mass shootings throughout the country,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, New York Democrat. “No one is safe until everyone is safe, so I think dealing with the assault weapons ban is an appropriate next step.”

But House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, scoffed at the proposal, saying Democrats are continuing to “play politics.”  

“They just want to move something,” he said. “You’ve watched it time and again in the House. That’s all they’re going to do, is play politics.”

The proposed legislation is similar to what was passed nearly 30 years ago. Democratic House and Senate majorities enacted an assault weapons ban in 1994, signed by President Clinton, but the measure had a 10-year sunset provision. Republicans, who later held majorities in both chambers in 2004, let the legislation expire on its due date.

The move by House Democrats to ban assault weapons comes just after Mr. Biden signed key gun control legislation last month that included the most significant new restrictions on firearms ownership in decades.

That bill established background checks to include juvenile criminal records, added spending on mental health, and offered incentives for states to adopt “red flag” laws that allow authorities to confiscate guns from people who are deemed dangerous.

Mr. Biden signed the new gun bill within days of a man firing on a Fourth of July parade in a Chicago suburb, killing seven people and wounding at least 46 others.

Democrats lamented the legislation did not do enough in the wake of several mass shootings, including the racist attack in Buffalo, New York, that killed 10 Black people, and a shooter at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, who killed 19 children and two teachers.

• Kerry Picket can be reached at kpicket@washingtontimes.com.

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