House of Representatives votes to set 21 as minimum age for semi-automatic guns
The United States House of Representatives has voted to set a minimum age of 21 for buying semi-automatic weapons in response to recent mass shootings, including in New York and Texas.
The vote was part of a wide-ranging gun control bill passed on Wednesday that would raise the age limit for purchasing a semi-automatic rifle and prohibit the sale of ammunition magazines with a capacity of more than 15 rounds.
The legislation passed by a mostly party-line vote of 223-204. The portion of the bill involving increasing the minimum age for semi-automatic weapons was approved by a vote of 228-199.
It has almost no chance of becoming law as the Senate pursues negotiations focused on improving mental health programmes, bolstering school security and enhancing background checks.
But the House bill does allow Democratic politicians a chance to frame for voters in November where they stand on policies that polls show are widely supported.
Democrat Veronica Escobar of Texas said: “We can’t save every life, but my God, shouldn’t we try? America we hear you and today in the House we are taking the action you are demanding.”
She added: “Take note of who is with you and who is not.”
The push comes after a House committee heard wrenching testimony from recent shooting victims and family members, including from 11-year-old girl Miah Cerrillo, who covered herself with a dead classmate’s blood to avoid being shot at the Uvalde elementary school in Texas.
Regular mass shootings in the United States have rarely stirred Congress to act. But the shooting of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde has revived efforts in a way that has lawmakers from both parties talking about the need to respond.
“It’s sickening, it’s sickening that our children are forced to live in this constant fear,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democratic Senator from California.
Ms Pelosi said that the House vote would “make history by making progress”. But it was unclear where the House measure will go after Wednesday’s vote, given that Republicans were adamant in their opposition.
“The answer is not to destroy the Second Amendment, but that is exactly where the Democrats want to go,” said Republican Jim Jordan, representative for Ohio.
The work to find common ground is mostly taking place in the Senate, where support from 10 Republicans will be needed to get a bill signed into law.
Nearly a dozen Democratic and Republican senators met privately for an hour on Wednesday in hopes of reaching a framework for compromise legislation by week’s end. Participants said more conversations were needed about a plan that is expected to propose modest steps.
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