Gun control bills to be taken up by U.S. House panel in emergency meeting
BUFFALO, NEW YORK – MAY 15: People gather outside of Tops market on May 15, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. Yesterday a gunman opened fire at the store, killing ten people and wounding another three. Suspect Payton Gendron was taken into custody and charged with first degree murder. U.S. Attorney Merrick Garland released a statement, saying the US Department of Justice is investigating the shooting “as a hate crime and an act of racially-motivated violent extremism”. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — Following mass shootings in New York and Texas, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee is holding an emergency meeting Thursday to mark up gun control legislation — though it’s likely doomed.
The package includes eight gun-related bills, known as the “Protecting Our Kids Act,” and they are expected to pass the Democratic-controlled House. But the legislation has little chance of making it through the evenly divided Senate, where 60 votes would be required for any bill to advance. Assuming every Democrat was in favor, they would need 10 Republicans to join.
The House package would raise the age of purchasing semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21, create new requirements for storing guns in a home with children, prevent gun trafficking, require all firearms to be traceable and close the loophole on bump stocks, devices that increase the rate of fire of semiautomatic weapons, among other things.
The meeting was scheduled by Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, after a White supremacist killed 10 Black people at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, on May 14. Ten days later, an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, was attacked by an 18-year-old man armed with a rifle and 19 children and two teachers were killed.
Meanwhile, with both the House and Senate in recess this week, a small bipartisan group of senators is also holding virtual talks to see if it is possible to advance any legislation on guns.
Last week, hours after the Uvalde slaughter, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, did not commit to working on any gun control legislation with Democrats.
However, a few Senate Republicans seemed open to the idea of red flag laws, which allow the courts or law enforcement to temporarily remove a firearm from an individual who is adjudged to pose a threat to themselves or others.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who’s worked for years to attempt to pass gun reform laws, tweeted that he’s been talking with senators of both parties about putting together a bipartisan gun violence bill.
“Senator Schumer has given us just over a week to find a compromise,” he wrote. “This time, failure cannot be an option.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said that if Republicans do not work with Democrats to come to an agreement, the Senate will still hold a vote on gun control legislation, even if it fails, when the chamber returns from recess.
After the Uvalde massacre, the nation’s second-deadliest mass school shooting since Sandy Hook Elementary a decade ago, Schumer took a procedural step to begin debate on two background check bills, with the possibility of calling for votes on them.
The House-passed bills are H.R. 8, which “establishes new background check requirements for firearm transfers between private parties,” and H.R. 1446, which “increases the amount of time… that a federal firearms’ licensee must wait to receive a completed background check prior to transferring a firearm to an unlicensed person.”
On Sunday, President Joe Biden visited Uvalde and called on Congress to stand up against the gun lobby and send a bill to his desk.
Gun rights groups, such as the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America, spent a record of nearly $16 million in lobbying in 2021, campaign finance records show.
“I will meet with Congress on guns, I promise you,” Biden told reporters Tuesday.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to hold a hearing on gun violence June 15.
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