By Joseph Lord
The House on June 8 voted to pass several bills including the “Protecting Our Kids” Act, a Democrat-sponsored omnibus package of gun control legislation. The bill will now head to the Senate, where it is all but doomed to fail to overcome the 60-vote filibuster threshold.
The final vote on the bill in the Democrat-majority chamber was preceded by a series of motions to retain various sections of the legislation; each section was ultimately retained, and the House voted 223-204 to pass the legislation to the Senate. Five Republicans voted for the bill and two Democrats voted against it.
The bills were split into several pieces and confirmed in bipartisan votes; the legislation included various previously-introduced gun control bills.
The first of these would ban the sale of “any semi-automatic centerfire rifle or semi-automatic centerfire shotgun that has, or has the capacity to accept, an ammunition feeding device with a capacity exceeding 5 rounds” to citizens below the age of 21. Currently, anyone 18 and over can buy such a weapon.
The House voted 228-199 to retain the title; 10 Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the measure; 2 Democrats voted against their party in electing to strike down the measure.
The legislation would also codify the Department of Justice’s controversial ban on bump stocks, a weapon modification that increases the fire rate of a semi-automatic firearm.
The House voted 233-194 to retain that title, including 13 Republican votes. No Democrats voted against it.
In addition, the bill would make it a federal crime to possess weapons that critics have pejoratively labeled “ghost guns”—a term usually describing homemade or 3D-printed weapons without a serial number.
The House voted 220-205 to retain the title, including three Republican votes in favor and two Democrat votes against the title.
Another title of the bill that bans high-capacity magazines was passed 220-207, with four Republicans voting for the measure and four Democrats voting against it.
Democrats have pushed for the package as urgently necessary in the wake of a Uvalde, Texas, school shooting that left 19 children and two adults dead.
“It’s past time that the Congress—particularly the Senate, but the Congress—act to crush this gun violence epidemic,” said Democrat Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) at a June 8 press conference.
“House Democrats are gonna respond, as we’ve typically done, with the fierce urgency of now,” Jeffries added.
“Protecting our kids—what could be more important than that?” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a speech on the House floor supporting the bill.
“Everything we [Democrats] do is for the children, and we must stop this gun violence in our country,” Pelosi said.
“Thoughts and prayers aren’t enough,” Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramilla Jayapal (D-Wash.) said on Twitter ahead of the vote. “We can never let this happen again.”
By contrast, Republicans in both chambers of Congress have pushed for legislation to address what they say are the root causes of violence, including widespread mental health issues that have ravaged young people in the aftermath of COVID-19.
GOP critics of tighter gun control say that the bills put forward by Democrats will do nothing to address the root issue, and will instead make Americans less safe by taking firearms out of the hands of law-abiding citizens.
“The Protecting Our Kids Act does nothing to address the breakdown of society and family, mental health, violent crime, and school safety in our country,” said Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) in a June 8 Twitter post representative of the GOP position. “Instead, it violates the 2nd Amendment rights of millions of law-abiding Americans.”
“Our hearts go out to those who … have been impacted [by the Uvalde shooting],” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said in a speech opposing the gun control package. “But the answer is not to destroy the Second Amendment. But that is exactly where the Democrats wanna go.”
“Protecting our kids is important, yes,” Jordan continued. “But this bill doesn’t do it.”
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) also blasted the bill: “The very children my colleagues say they wish to protect … in order to do this, Democrats in this body are willing to take away citizens’ God given right, yes, God given right that was mocked earlier, to protect himself or herself or her family or his family from harm, the very harm they foster by appeasing lawlessness, and importantly from the very tyranny being applied to them to deny that right. That is what is at stake.”
The real litmus test for any bill is in the Senate, where most legislation must overcome a 60-vote filibuster threshold to pass.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) blessing, is leading bipartisan negotiations in the upper chamber to find another compromise.
But the process has been a slow one, and Cornyn has said that the negotiations will need at least another week to find some agreement.
Still, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has suggested that the Senate will move forward with a vote on this or another bill later this week.
“We have a moral obligation to take action to break this cycle,” Schumer said in a June 8 tweet. “This Senate will vote on gun safety legislation.”
However, it remains unclear what any compromise deal in the Senate will look like.