House Democrats push wide-ranging gun safety legislation in wake of mass shootings


'We must take real, commonsense action to prevent future tragedies,' said Nevada Democratic Rep. Dina Titus.

In the wake of recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, House Democrats are pushing to pass the Protecting Our Kids Act to reduce gun-related violence across the nation. 

H.R. 7910, an omnibus bill that comprises gun safety proposals already introduced by House Democrats, is expected to receive a vote on the House floor this week after it was advanced out of the House Judiciary Committee on June 2 by a vote of 25-19. All Republican members of the committee voted against the package. 

The bill was introduced on May 31 by House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler of New York and was originally co-sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and Rep. Mike Thompson of California. It now has 177 co-sponsors. 

"The time for stalling, obstruction and obfuscation in the face of senseless killing after senseless killing is over," Nadler said in a statement after the vote in the Judiciary Committee. "The bold package we passed today will not only help prevent the next Uvalde or Buffalo, it will also keep our communities and schools safer by addressing many of the loopholes that allow guns to fall into the wrong hands." 

In 2018, the Small Arms Survey, a project of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Switzerland, concluded that there were 393,300,000 guns, both legal and illegal, held by civilians in the United States, more than in any other nation. That's more guns than people, with an estimated 120.5 firearms for every 100 residents.

H.R. 7910's Title I, Raise the Age, originally introduced by Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD) as H.R. 3015, would raise the age limit for purchasing certain semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21. Exceptions would be provided for members of the armed forces and full-time employees of the U.S. government who are authorized to carry a firearm.

Title II, Prevent Gun Trafficking, introduced by Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL) as H.R. 2280,  would establish new federal penalties of up to 10 years in prison for gun trafficking and for straw purchasing, the illegal buying of a firearm by one person for another who is not legally permitted to own one. 

The official Twitter account of the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee noted on June 2 that "the vast majority of firearms used in criminal activity are transported into cities from states with weak gun laws." Title II would target such trafficking.

Title III, Untraceable Firearms, introduced by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) as H.R. 3088, would require that so-called ghost guns, defined in the bill as "a firearm, including a frame or receiver, that lacks a unique serial number engraved or cast on the frame or receiver by a licensed manufacturer or importer," be subject to federal firearms laws and given serial numbers.

The omnibus bill's Title IV, Safe Storage, comprises H.R. 748, Ethan's Law, introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT); H.R. 6370, the Safe Guns, Safe Kids Act, introduced by Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI); and H.R. 130, the Kimberly Vaughan Firearm Safe Storage Act, introduced by Jackson Lee.

Title V is Closing the Bump Stock Loophole, introduced as H.R. 5427 by Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV). Bump stocks are defined in part in the legislation as "Any manual, power-driven, or electronic device that is designed such that when the device is attached to a semiautomatic weapon, the device eliminates the need for the operator of a semiautomatic weapon to make a separate movement for each individual function of the trigger." Title V would classify bump stocks as machine guns, requiring them to be registered under the existing National Firearms Act and ban the manufacture, sale, or possession of new bump stocks for civilian use.

The manufacture and importation of new machine guns has been illegal in the U.S. since 1986, but bump stocks can be used to circumnavigate the law, according to Titus, to produce fully automatic weapons like the ones used in the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas.

"The recent mass shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo once again highlight the need for Congress to pass commonsense gun reform," Titus told the American Independent Foundation. "We must take real, commonsense action to prevent future tragedies. Thoughts and prayers alone will not save lives. Americans deserve action."

Finally, Title VI, Keep Americans Safe, was introduced as H.R. 2510 by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL). It says, "It shall be unlawful for a person to import, sell, manufacture, transfer, or possess, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, a large capacity ammunition feeding device," which it defines as "a magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, helical feeding device, or similar device, including any such device joined or coupled with another in any manner, that has an overall capacity of, or that can be readily restored, changed, or converted to accept, more than 10 rounds of ammunition."

As Democrats in the House work to pass legislation that would regulate the firearms used in mass shootings, Republican legislators in the states are making it easier to obtain them.

Republicans in the Ohio Legislature on June 1 passed H.B. 99, which would make carrying guns onto school grounds easier by cutting the required firearms training time for teachers, custodians, and bus drivers from 728 hours to just 24.

On June 3, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott ordered weekly checks of school doors instead of focusing on gun safety issues.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.