House Judiciary Committee approves wide-ranging gun control legislation in wake of mass shootings

By Clare Foran and Kristin Wilson, CNN

    (CNN) -- The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved a wide-ranging package of gun control legislation called the "Protecting Our Kids Act," as lawmakers face intense pressure to act in the wake of recent mass shootings.

The measure is not expected to pass the Senate, however, amid widespread GOP opposition to stricter gun control. A bipartisan group of senators is engaging in talks in an attempt to find common ground on gun policy, but it is still unclear what, if anything, will come of the effort.

After a nearly ten-hour long session during what was originally scheduled as a recess week, the committee voted 25-19 along party lines, a procedural step before the full House votes on the package.

House Democrats are moving to tee up votes on gun bills in the aftermath of a series of horrific shootings that have shocked the nation, including at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced earlier on Thursday that the full House will vote next week on the "Protecting Our Kids Act."

The legislation includes a series of individual bills aimed at preventing gun violence. The measure would raise the legal age to buy certain semiautomatic centerfire rifles from 18 to 21 years old, establish new federal offenses for gun trafficking and for selling large-capacity magazines, and allow local governments to compensate individuals who surrender such magazines through a buyback program. It would create a tax incentive for retail sales of safe storage devices and criminal penalties for breaking new requirements regulating firearm storage on residential premises. The measure would also take steps to strengthen existing federal regulations on bump stocks and ghost guns.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, on Thursday called for the passage of the measures to prevent gun violence, emphasizing a sense of urgency after what happened in Uvalde and Buffalo as well as other incidents.

"We have to enact strong laws to protect our people. And if all these mass shootings don't do it, I don't know what will," he said.

Nadler said that he's hopeful that this time may be different, but "can't speak for the Senate."

"I hope they do the right thing," he said.

Most legislation requires 60 votes to overcome a filibuster and pass in the Senate and Democrats only control 50 seats. At least 10 Republicans would need to vote with Democrats to pass new gun laws as a result, an unlikely prospect.

The deep partisan divide over the issue was clear during Thursday's markup as Republicans objected to the legislative package of gun control measures.

Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, dismissed the package of gun bills as partisan.

"No one wants another tragedy. No one wants this to happen again. That's why it's regretful that Democrats have rushed to a markup today in what seems more like political theater than a real attempt at improving public safety or finding solutions," he said.

"Democrats never once reached out to us to seek our input on the legislation we are considering here today," Jordan said, adding, "this is not a real attempt in my judgment to find solutions."

Jordan also rejected Democratic calls to raise the age of buying a semi-automatic rifle to 21.

"It's unconstitutional," Jordan told CNN.

Democratic Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, a member of the committee, defended Democrats' strategy to mark up a bill that would overhaul gun policy, even though it will not get enough support to pass the Senate.

The fear among some Democrats is that going too far could harden Republican opposition to a bipartisan deal in the Senate.

"The American people are demanding that the Congress take action to reduce gun violence in this country," Cicilline said. "And if the measure was we're going to only pass bills that we had confidence the Senate would pass, we could go home because we have dozens of bills that are sitting in the Senate awaiting action."

GOP lawmaker displays guns during markup

Florida Republican Rep. Greg Steube used his time during the House Judiciary markup to display an array of handguns in an attempt to show what guns could be banned. He was participating remotely and later said that he was at his home.

"Right here in front of me, I have a Sig Sauer P226," he said, holding up the weapon that could be seen on the screen. "It comes with a 21-round magazine. This gun would be banned."

Steube then tried to insert a smaller magazine into the gun, which did not fit "because this gun was made for a 21-round magazine."

He then held up several other guns, prompting Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas to say, "I hope the gun is not loaded."

"I'm at my house," Steube responded. "I can do whatever I want with my guns."

Tensions flare during markup

Tensions flared between Democrats and Republicans as the marathon event went late into the evening on Thursday.

"Spare me the bullshit about constitutional rights," Cicilline said at one point during a debate over red flag laws, which can allow for guns to be temporarily taken away from individuals deemed a danger to themselves and others. Some opponents of the laws argue the measures infringe on due process rights.

"You know who didn't have due process? You know who didn't have their constitutional right to life respected? The kids at Parkland, and Sandy Hook, and Uvalde and Buffalo, and the list goes on and on," he said.

Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland accused Republicans of misleading the American public about the Second Amendment in their arguments against tighter gun regulations at one point.

"My colleagues are throwing up the Second Amendment as a smokescreen to protect their opposition to any reasonable gun safety regulation," Raskin said. "Enough -- that's what's killing America. You're confusing people by saying that somehow any form of gun safety regulation violates the Second Amendment. That's nonsense. That's bull. That's ridiculous."

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Thursday.

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