The House approved legislation Friday to ban high-powered firearms of the kind that have been used in recent mass shootings around the country, although it is unlikely to become law anytime soon.
The Assault Weapons Ban of 2022 would prohibit the manufacture and sale of certain types of semiautomatic rifles, shotguns and pistols, with exceptions for antique guns and certain sporting models.
The bill passed in the House 217-213, with five Democrats voting against it and two Republicans voting in its favor. Loud cheers broke out in the chamber when the legislation passed after several hours of debate.
In putting the assault weapons ban up for a vote by itself, House Democrats backtracked on a tentative plan to tie the bill to more controversial police funding legislation. The idea had alarmed progressive members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who were concerned that funds would be doled out without proper accountability provisions, as HuffPost previously reported. The police bills will now be considered separately.
During the debate period, Republican after Republican stood up on the House floor and called the bill “unconstitutional,” warning constituents that Democratic lawmakers wanted “to take your guns.” Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) suggested it would be better “to ban Democrat thinking in the big cities that’s allowing the crime rates to just explode.”
The legislation would not affect weapons lawfully obtained before it goes into effect. In the United States, there are roughly 120.5 guns for every 100 residents, according to a 2018 study ― and people keep buying guns. It is the only country where guns are known to outnumber civilians.
A similar assault weapons ban was put into effect in 1994, under protest from the National Rifle Association and its followers, but it was allowed to expire in 2004. Recalling its passage, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Friday that “it was hard, but it happened, and it saved lives.”
There is debate over the effectiveness of the 1994 ban. Evidence suggests that it was most effective just before it expired, given how its impact was designed to unfold over time by affecting future transactions.
President Joe Biden has repeatedly called on Congress to outlaw assault-style weapons as the nation continues to tally victims of mass shootings. Calls intensified after 19 children and two teachers were killed in late May at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, while a crowd of police officers hesitated to confront the gunman, who was armed with an AR-15-style weapon ― a type that would be included in the ban.
The legislation, however, is highly unlikely to attract enough support in the Senate to overcome that chamber’s filibuster rule, which requires 60 senators to agree to bring a bill to the floor for a final vote. The Senate’s 50 Democrats are unlikely to convince 10 of their Republican colleagues to agree to hold a vote on a measure their party firmly opposes.
Still, advocates for better gun control policy see the vote as a chance to put every member of Congress on the record on gun violence.
While public opinion polling on guns can be flawed based on how the questions are posed, a strong majority of Americans favor specific gun control policies like background checks and red-flag laws. About 63% of Americans favor a ban on assault-style weapons, according to a 2021 report from the Pew Research Center.
Lydia O’Connor contributed reporting.