U.S. House Passes Assault Weapons Ban in Tight Vote, the First Ban Since 2004

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U.S. House Passes Assault Weapons Ban in Tight Vote, the First Ban Since 2004
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The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a ban on semi-automatic guns.

The historic vote happened on Friday as a direct reaction to the tragic mass shootings across the country, from Uvalde, Texas to Highland Park, Ill. The legislation, titled the Assault Weapons Ban of 2022, cleared in a 217-213 vote, The Hill reported.

Republican Reps. Chris Jacobs (N.Y.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.) supported the measure, while Democratic Reps. Henry Cuellar (Texas), Jared Golden (Maine), Vicente Gonzalez (Texas), Kurt Schrader (Ore.) and Ron Kind (D-Wis.) voted against it.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) talks to repoorters minutes after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v Wade, which guaranteed a woman's right to an abortion, in the Capitol Visitors Center on June 24, 2022 in Washington, DC. The court ruled 6-3 in Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health, overturning a 50-year precedent and sending abortion regulation back to the states. "Today, the Republican-controlled Supreme Court has achieved the GOP’s dark and extreme goal of ripping away women’s right to make their own reproductive health decisions," Pelosi said
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) talks to repoorters minutes after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v Wade, which guaranteed a woman's right to an abortion, in the Capitol Visitors Center on June 24, 2022 in Washington, DC. The court ruled 6-3 in Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health, overturning a 50-year precedent and sending abortion regulation back to the states. "Today, the Republican-controlled Supreme Court has achieved the GOP’s dark and extreme goal of ripping away women’s right to make their own reproductive health decisions," Pelosi said

Chip Somodevilla/Getty

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The U.S. has banned high-powered firearms once before in 1994, although the ruling expired 10 years later in 2004. Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed the vote in the House, arguing that the earlier ban had "saved lives," according to The Guardian.

If passed by the Senate, H.R. 1808 will criminalize the known sale, manufacture, transfer, possession or importation of many types of semi-automatic weapons and large-capacity magazines.

US-POLITICS-GUNS-SCHOOLS-PROTEST
US-POLITICS-GUNS-SCHOOLS-PROTEST

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty

President Joe Biden, who was a senator at the time the first ban was passed, encouraged the action in a statement, promising to sign the bill if it reached his desk.

"Today, House Democrats acted by unifying to pass an assault weapons ban to keep weapons of war off our streets, save lives in this country, and reduce crime in our communities," he wrote.

"The majority of the American people agree with this common sense action. The Senate should move quickly to get this bill to my desk, and I will not stop fighting until it does," Biden, 79, added. "There can be no greater responsibility than to do all we can to ensure the safety of our families, our children, our homes, our communities, and our nation."

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During Friday's vote, Republicans stood firmly against limits on ownership of the high-powered firearms amid an often emotional debate ahead of voting.

"It's a gun-grab, pure and simple," said Guy Reschenthaler of Pennsylvania, The Guardian reported. "An armed America is a safe and free America," said Andrew Clyde of Georgia.

President Joe Biden speaks from the Treaty Room in the White House
President Joe Biden speaks from the Treaty Room in the White House

Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty

Last month, Biden signed the S. 2938, otherwise known as the "Bipartisan Safer Communities Act," which enacts commonsense gun laws and provides funding for mental health support and anti-violence programs.

"I'm about to sign into law a bipartisan gun safety legislation. And time is of the essence. Lives will be saved," Biden told reporters before putting his signature on the bill in the White House's Roosevelt Room.

He recalled his many visits with survivors and families of gun violence victims from the ongoing mass shooting epidemic that has swept the United States over the years.

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"Their message to us was: 'Do something.' How many times we heard that? 'Just do something. For God's sake, just do something,'" he said. "Well, today, we did. While this bill doesn't do everything I want, it does include actions I've long called for that are going to save lives."

The bill "enhances certain restrictions and penalties on firearms purchases; promotes evidence-based best practices for school safety; authorizes grants to expand access to mental health services; and appropriates emergency funding for mental health resources and school safety measures," according to a White House briefing.

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It includes red-flag laws that keep guns from those who are dangers to themselves and others, including closing the "boyfriend loophole," meaning people who assault their significant other cannot buy or own a gun.

Additionally, the legislation requires people ages 18 to 21 to undergo thorough background checks to obtain a gun and classifies gun trafficking and straw purchases as federal crimes. It also clarifies who is required to register as a federally licensed gun dealer and run background checks before selling a weapon.

"I know there's much more work to do, and I'm never going to give up. But this is a monumental day," Biden said. "God bless us with the strength to continue to work to get the work that's left undone done, and the lives lost that can't be saved that obviously are gone but will be an inspiration for us to do more."