House passes bill banning certain semi-automatic weapons

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House passed legislation Friday to revive a ban on certain semi-automatic weapons, the first vote of its kind in years and a direct response to the firearms often used in mass shootings ripping through communities across the country.

Once banned in the United States, the high-powered firearms are now widely blamed as the weapon of choice among young men responsible for many of the most devastating mass shootings. But Congress allowed the restrictions, first introduced in 1994 on the manufacture and sale of the weapons, to expire a decade later, unable to muster political support to counter the powerful gun lobby and reinstate the gun ban.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed the vote toward passage in the Democratic-run House, saying the earlier ban “saved lives.”

President Joe Biden hailed the House vote, saying, “The majority of the American people agree with this common sense act.” He urged the Senate to “move quickly to get this bill to my desk.”

However, it will likely stall in the 50-50 Senate. The representatives’ legislation is rejected by Republicans, who rejected it as an election-year strategy by Democrats. Almost all Republicans voted against the House bill, which passed 217-213.

The bill comes at a time of growing concerns about gun violence and shootings — supermarket shooting in Buffalo, NY; massacre of school children in Uvalde, Texas; and the Fourth of July shootings of revelers in Highland Park, Ill.

Voters appear to take such election-year votes seriously as Congress splits along party lines and lawmakers are forced to follow their views. A recent vote to protect same-sex marriage from potential legal challenges from the Supreme Court won a surprising amount of bipartisan support.

Biden was instrumental in securing the first semi-automatic weapons ban as a senator in 1994. The Biden administration said that for 10 years while the ban was in place, mass shootings declined. “When the ban expired in 2004, mass shootings tripled,” the statement said.

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