House passes assault weapon ban

Another bill that won’t pass the Senate, but nonetheless shows the gap in values and priorities between the two parties.

As the House passed legislation to ban assault weapons for the first time in nearly two decades Friday, Democrats pointed to a string of mass shootings in Texas where such weapons were used to kill dozens of people: Nineteen children and two teachers in Uvalde in May; 23 shoppers in an El Paso Walmart almost exactly three years ago; 26 congregants in a church in Sutherland Springs in 2017.

“We’ve turned our churches, our schools, our shopping centers, our entertainment venues — almost any place — into a battleground, with one massacre after another,” said U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin.

U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, an El Paso Democrat, said some of her constituents who survived the mass shooting there in 2019 are still recovering from their injuries.

“The domestic terrorist who attacked my community was able to do so with a legally purchased assault weapon,” Escobar said. “What was once an unthinkable tragedy — the mass carnage we saw in El Paso — is now commonplace across America.”


The bill narrowly passed the House on a 217-213 vote as five Democrats joined all but two Republicans in opposing the legislation.

U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar of Laredo and Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen — two Democrats whom Republicans have targeted in competitive South Texas midterm races — voted against the ban.

Gonzalez said in a statement that he “strongly supports” expanded background checks, waiting periods, red flag laws and a ban on high-capacity magazines.

“But there are tens of millions of assault rifles already in circulation across America, many of them are used by responsible gun owners for hunting in South Texas,” he said. “And a ban on some of those models will do nothing to reduce overall risks.”

The vote comes at the urging of gun safety advocates and survivors and family members of victims of recent mass shootings. Kimberly Rubio, whose 10-year-old daughter Lexi was killed at Robb Elementary School, asked lawmakers to ban the weapons during testimony before the House Oversight Committee last month.

“Somewhere out there, there’s a mom listening to our testimony, thinking, ‘I can’t even imagine their pain.’ Not knowing that our reality one day will be hers,” Rubio said. “Unless we act now.”

The bill would ban new sales of assault-style rifles and create a voluntary buyback program. It would add new safe storage requirements for existing assault weapons.

Three points of interest here. One, while I would have preferred for Reps. Cuellar and Gonzalez to have voted with the majority, I’m less concerned by such votes when the bill passes anyway. As long as you’re not preventing it from passing, like some Senators I could name, it doesn’t bother me that much. Your mileage may vary on that.

Two, I’m not interested in litigating what the definition of an “assault weapon” is. We’ve had such a ban on the books before, and if this bill is modeled after that law, it’s good enough for me. Including buyback and safe storage provisions are bonuses. I don’t need this law to be perfect, I just need it to have a positive effect.

Which leads to the final point, that Rep. Gonzalez’s complaint that this bill won’t reduce the overall risk is wrong on its face and is wrong in the way that the more sweeping critique of any gun control law that it won’t stop every gun death ever is wrong. I’m not going to make the cyberdefense analogy here again, but that’s the basic idea. It’s fine for each law to focus on one or two specific aspects of the issue. Do that enough and the sum total will be a robust attack on the overall risk level. You can never get the risk to zero, in cybersecurity or public health or climate change or gun safety or national defense or any number of other large multi-faceted threats. But you can significantly lower your risk and improve your ability to respond effectively when something unwanted happens. We do this all the time in many other fields, and making the “we shouldn’t do this thing because it won’t solve all of our problems” argument in those contexts would mark you as ignoramus. It’s way past time we stopped giving those arguments against basic gun safety laws any credibility. The Trib has more.

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7 Responses to House passes assault weapon ban

  1. Ross says:

    Sorry Kuff, but this bill is a horribly written piece of crap that will do nothing, just like the 1994 ban did nothing. In both cases, the ban is based on appearance, not function, with the end result being that scary looking rifles are outlawed, while conventional appearing rifles that are functionally identical remain available to buy. In additional, there are dozens of pages listing banned and allowed models by name and manufacturer, which I think is pretty much a violation of the rights of those companies..

    I can’t tell whether the Democrats that wrote the bill are ignorant, or are just not trying very hard. Maybe a combination of both.

    Like it or not, you can’t effectively ban firearms based on appearance. It’s much like the proposals in Britain to ban knives with pointy ends, where the proponents argued that no one needed a knife with a point, and that the law would prevent stabbings. Both are weak arguments not rooted in reality.

    There are several avenues the Democrats could take. They could be honest, and announce a ban on all semi-automatic firearms of any type and a mandatory buyback for all existing firearms that meet the definitions. That would probably get shot down by SCOTUS in about 5 minutes.

    A better choice would be to raise the age to buy any semiautomatic firearm to 21, which would be far more palatable to Republican voters than any other option. I also think it’s far more likely to stand up in SCOTUS.

    Keep in mind that there are limits as to what Congress can do. For instance, Congress cannot ban transfers of firearms between residents of the same state, as there’s’ no interstate commerce involved.

  2. C.L. says:

    Blah blah blah. I’ll take what we can get at this point.

  3. Ross says:

    C.L., so you are totally OK with poorly written laws that do not actually do what they are claimed to do? It’s all theater that will have zero effect on mass shootings. It also demonstrates that Democrats can be just as stupid as Republicans. A law presented as an assault weapons ban that disallows one model while another functionally identical firearm with a different appearance is OK is a stupid law. Written by stupid people.

    If the Democrats keep this up, I am going to have to stop voting completely, as both sides prove they are incompetent morons with no brains, common sense, or clue.

  4. C.L. says:

    I’m OK with some laws instead of no laws.

  5. robert says:

    Ross….why does anyone need a gun? Compensating something??

    I was in the Army at 17, if someone wants to play with guns…enlist, lots of guns to play with there.

    Look at this video from Justice Burger from 1991….tell me people haven’t taken the 2nd amendment like the word of God… was an amendment , prohibition was an amendment and it was repealed , as should the 2nd amendment , smh

  6. Ross says:

    Robert, why does anyone need anything?

    No compensation here. Firearms are tools I use for specific purposes. Hunting, for instance, where an AR15 is a great choice for a variety of game animals. Competition is another use.

    I can’t enlist, I’m far too old. Besides, rifles and pistols in the military are tightly controlled and only used under supervision and in specific situations.

    What would you suggest my ranch owning friend do about the feral hogs on his property? Or the over population of deer.

    Feel free to try and repeal the 2nd Amendment. You won’t get far.

    Also, feel free to explain why this bill is a good one, and what real effect it will have.

  7. Joel says:

    Ross: “What would you suggest my ranch owning friend do about the feral hogs on his property? Or the over population of deer.

    Feel free to try and repeal the 2nd Amendment. You won’t get far.”

    um, get a legal and legally obtained firearm after passing background checks, etc?

    funny how even Scalia is not radical enough anymore for the gun crowd. see Heller. gun control not equal repealing an amendment.

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