- The Washington Times
Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is planning to force an ambitious gun-control package through the House, raising concerns that the move may damage bipartisan talks in the Senate.

Lawmakers say that with the Senate split 50-50 and Republicans wary of antagonizing the gun lobby, Mrs. Pelosi’s push for legislation with no hope of becoming law could jeopardize the status of any bipartisan compromise.

“Guns are such a heated topic, with long-existing fault lines between Republicans and Democrats,” said a Republican aide, whose boss is involved in the Senate negotiations. “What Pelosi is doing could easily suck up all the attention and force both sides back into their entrenched positions.”

The fear, in particular, is that the package of bills being championed by Mrs. Pelosi will mobilize both advocates and opponents of gun control in the wake of last week’s massacre at a Texas elementary school. Even though the legislation has no hope of success in the Senate, where at least 60 votes are needed to overcome a filibuster, lawmakers fear the package overshadow any efforts at smaller, but bipartisan, measures.  

Mrs. Pelosi’s legislation would raise the age at which a semi-automatic rifle can be purchased from 18 to 21. It also would ban the sale and manufacture of gun magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

The package of bills also requires the gun owners to register bump stocks, devices attached to semiautomatic rifles to enable the firing of bullets more rapidly, while banning the sale, manufacture or possession of new ones for civilian use.

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“As we have promised again and again to the courageous survivors of gun violence, we will never stop until the job is done,” said Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat.

The Senate’s gun talks are likely to result in nothing as ambitious as the House legislation. At the moment, there is not even a framework agreement between Republicans and Democrats on the topic.

Lawmakers hope a deal can be forged on expanding background checks for gun purchases and incentivizing states to adopt “red flag” laws, which allow law enforcement to remove firearms from individuals determined by a court to be a danger.

Although the negotiations face long odds, those involved fear that Mrs. Pelosi’s decision to force a vote on a competing package will make a deal impossible. They say that Democrats are likely to rally around Mrs. Pelosi’s gun control measures, while Republicans will jump to oppose.

The result, bipartisan negotiators fear, will be a politically charged environment in which even watered-down changes cannot pass.

Republicans say the House bills would do little to prevent mass shootings and only serve to trample on the Second Amendment.

“Democrats say they don’t want to ban all guns,” said Rep. Thomas Massie, Kentucky Republican, on social media. “But they do want to take some guns from all people, and all guns from some people. Good luck not being on either of their two lists.”

Mrs. Pelosi and House Democratic leaders say that although they hope the Senate’s bipartisan talks are fruitful, it would be a disservice not to act now.

“We must take action,” said Mrs. Pelosi. “To members of Congress, I say: your political survival is insignificant compared to the survival of America’s children.”

In an election year, Mrs. Pelosi’s decision to move the package of bills also could help several vulnerable swing-district Democrats who have come out hard in favor of gun control after a wave of recent mass shootings.

Some, like Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, have even gone further than the legislation Mrs. Pelosi is backing.

“The sad reality is that requiring would-be mass murderers to reload saves lives — permitting people [the chance to escape] and law enforcement [time to respond],” she said. “This is why I support legislation to limit magazine capacity.”

Last week, Mrs. Spanberger became the 205th Democrat to co-sponsor legislation that would ban not only high-capacity magazines, but also assault weapons — the political moniker used to describe semiautomatic rifles.

• Haris Alic can be reached at halic@washingtontimes.com.

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