Millions of rifles like these AR-15’s on sale at a recent gun show would be banned by legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on July 29 (Image courtesy of BusinessInsider.org).
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Democrats in Congress planned to observe August as National Shooting Sports Month by dusting off a national ban on assault rifles.
Unlike its predecessor – the 1994 to 2004 federal assault weapons ban enacted by the Clinton administration – the measure passed July 29 by the U.S. House would criminalize the simple possession of a so-called assault rifle.
That law, if enacted, would make more than 20 million law-abiding citizens into criminals overnight, according to Joseph Bartozzi, the president and CEO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
In a largely symbolic act of political theater, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives passed the sweeping gun control measure on Friday evening just prior to adjourning for their August recess.
That measure – House Resolution 1808, which passed a floor vote 217 to 213 — would make it illegal to sell, manufacture, transfer, possess or import an assault weapon or a large capacity magazine.
“The majority of the American people agree with this common sense action,” President Joe Biden said in a White House statement released after the House vote. “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.”
The topic is radioactive for Republicans, who declined to comment openly this week.
Behind the scenes, however, they say the measure is blatantly unconstitutional, has no chance of passage in the evenly divided Senate and dismiss the vote as grandstanding by Democrats in an effort demonstrate to voters months before the midterm election that they are trying to address the recent epidemic of mass shootings in America.
But, even here in red state Utah, that vote apparently resonates with voters weary of all-too frequent sensational headlines reporting details of mass shooting like those recently in Uvalde, TX and Buffalo, NY.
Polling by Dan Jones and Associates for the Deseret News and the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah in mid-July revealed sharply divided opinions among Utah voters about the causes of gun violence.
That survey of 801 registered voters found that 40 percent attributed mass shootings to inadequate mental health treatment, 31 percent said they were caused by lax gun control laws and 10 blamed inadequate security in schools and other public places. Another 19 percent attributed mass shootings to other causes.
Typically, political party affiliation colored the survey responses. Forty six percent of respondents who identified as Republicans blamed mental health challenges, while 63 percent of Democrats attributed mass shootings to inadequate gun control.
The July 29 House vote came less than a month after the Senate passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. That measure – with the approval of 29 Republican senators – would provide $10 billion for improved mental health services, enhanced school security and to strengthen background checks for gun-buyers under 21.
First District Congressman Blake Moore (R-UT) voted against that legislation when Speaker Nancy Pelosi rammed it through the House in late June, objecting to its intent to “ … use federal funds to implement red flag laws without the specific assurance of due process protections.”
But the incumbent representative still praised the Senate bill as a common sense response to gun violence.
“My vote … is not a blanket disapproval of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act,” Moore explained. “Far from it, I support many of its provisions.
“Elected officials, community leaders, churches and families all have a role in coming together to rebuild our sense of goodwill and repair the bonds that have frayed between us.
“The resources provided (by this legislation) for these efforts is a welcome investment in the unity of our nation.”
But Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) dismissed the Senate bill as a “… weak, modest measure.”
“Weapons of war are designed for war,” Dogget said, arguing that it is easier for a teenager to purchase an AR-15 rifle than to buy a beer.
The effectiveness of the 1994 assault weapons ban was always limited due to the inability of the Clinton administration to creatively identify all of the weapons it was intended to ban.
But HR 1808 would ban weapons based on their description (e.g. having a pistol grip; a forward grip; a folding, telescoping or detachable stock; a grenade launcher; a barrel shroud; or a threaded barrel) and their nomenclature (e.g. AR-15, M-16, AK-47, etc.).
Weapons already in the hands of American gun enthusiasts meeting those criteria that had previously been grandfathered under the 1994 assault weapons ban would now be illegal and subject to confiscation.
The legislation would also ban nearly all semi-automatic pistols and shotguns that accept a detachable magazine.
Republicans argue that AR-15 style weapons are popular sporting rifles and the Supreme Court has already ruled that attempts to ban that category of weapons are unconstitutional.
“Let’s call this what it is,” said Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA). “It’s a gun-grab, pure and simple.”