The assault weapons ban in America passed by the House appears set to be doomed in the Senate amid relentless Republican opposition to gun reform, even in the wake of a series of mass shootings in the US.
The legislation in the House, which would ban assault weapons for the first time since 2004, is interpreted as a sign that Democrats plan more aggressive gun violence prevention after a series of mass shootings using the military-derived weapons, including in Buffalo, New York , and Uvalde, Texas.
It was passed 217-213, with two Republicans voting in favor and five opposing Democrats. the law would criminalize the knowing sale, manufacture, transfer, possession or importation of many types of semi-automatic weapons and large-capacity magazines.
“Our nation has watched in unspeakable horror as assault weapons have been used in massacre after massacre in communities across the country,” the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said on Friday before the vote. “We know that an assault weapons ban can work because it has worked before.”
The Democrat-controlled House judiciary committee estimated last week that the five major gun manufacturers have collected more than $1bn from the sale of assault rifles in the past decade.
New York Democrat Carolyn Maloney said that gun manufacturers use “dangerous selling tactics to sell assault weapons to the public”, including “marketing to children, preying on young men’s insecurities and even appealing to violent white supremacists.”.
Cogressman Brad Schneider, who represents Highland Park in Illinois where a mass shooter recently disrupted a Fourth of July parade with a hail of gunfire, killing seven, said at the hearing that “the shooter was able to fire off his bullets so fast that they couldn’t ‘t even identify where they were coming from”.
But in the 50-50 evenly-split Senate, the bill is unlikely to pass despite a political breakthrough last month in bringing the bill forward. In that chamber, it would require support from at least 10 Republicans. Nor is it certain that all 50 Democrat senators are on board.
Congressional Republicans argue that the legislation is unconstitutional and would result in the confiscation of firearms. “Today, they’re coming for your guns,” said rightwing Ohio congressman Jim Jordan, a senior member of the judiciary committee. “They want to take all guns from all people.”
The last time the legislature passed an assault weapons ban was in 1994. A 2019 study in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery showed the number of mass shooting deaths declined while the law, which expired in 2004, was in effect.
Since then, the number of assault-style weapons in private hands has proliferated to 19.8m, according to a November 2020 statement by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, with mass-shooting growing in frequency alongside.
The legislation has not yet been scheduled in the senate for before or after the August recess. On Friday, Joe Biden said he welcomed the House vote, saying a majority of Americans “agree with this common sense action.”
“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”, he added in a statement issued by the White House.