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House passes gun package, raising age for semi-automatic weapon purchases

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House passes gun package, raising age for semi-automatic weapon purchases
The House was expected to vote on the full package of gun control legislation Wednesday. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

June 8 (UPI) -- The House passed a package of firearms restrictions Wednesday, including to raise the minimum age for purchasing semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21 years old, following a series of high-profile shootings that have left scores dead nationwide.

The measure was part of a package of gun control bills known collectively as the Protecting Our Kids Act.

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The chamber voted 228-199 in favor of this particular portion of the bill, with Democrats largely voting "yes" and Republicans mostly voting "no."

The lawmakers later voted on the entire package, which passed 223-205, with Two Democrats -- Reps. Jared Golden of Maine and Kurt Schrader of Oregon -- voting against the legislation while five Republicans including Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, Chris Jacobs of New York, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Fred Upton of Michigan jumped the aisle to vote in favor of the bill.

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The package now faces the obstacle of a divided Senate, which is considering its own gun legislation, and will need 10 Republicans to support it before reaching the president's desk.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., introduced the group of bills last month in the days after a shooting at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school left 19 children and two teachers dead. President Joe Biden has shown support for tighter gun laws in the wake of the Robb Elementary School shooting as well as a massacre at a Buffalo, N.Y., grocery store that killed 10 people.

In addition to increasing the age limit on the purchase of certain firearms, the legislative package would "prevent gun trafficking, modernize the prohibition on untraceable firearms [and] encourage the safe storage of firearms."

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Specifically, it would ban the sale, manufacture and possession of gun magazines that hold more than 15 rounds, ensure so-called ghost guns are subject to federal regulations, create new federal offenses for gun trafficking and straw purchases and establish storage regulations as well as offer firearm storage assistance grants, among other measures.

"None of these ideas are extreme. In fact, they are what the vast majority of the people in this country want us to do," Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said from the House floor. "None of these proposals are aimed at taking guns away from law-abiding gun owners. They're aimed at stopping people from getting slaughtered in their schools and churches and grocery stores and homes.

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"These bills would have stopped the shooters of Buffalo and Uvalde from buying their guns."

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Democrats have increased their efforts to tighten gun restrictions in the wake of the shootings but have received pushback from Republicans who argue the moves are an affront to the Second Amendment and do not tackle the root cause of the violence.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, from the floor described what happened in Uvalde, Buffalo and other cities that have seen mass shootings "as wrong as wrong can be ... but the answer is not to destroy the Second Amendment, but that is exactly where the Democrats want to go."

"These bills would say when you can buy a firearm, what kind of firearm you can get and where and how you have to store that firearm in your own darn home," he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., from the floor asked her colleagues if they were not embarrassed that guns are the leading cause of death for children in the United States.

"It's sickening that our children are forced to live in this constant fear," she said. "And make no mistake, these gunmen who choose to shoot innocent children are desecrating, again our culture, a culture where all of us, all of our kids must and should feel safe."

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The vote was held after members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform heard testimony from witnesses and survivors of the Uvalde shooting, including a fourth-grader who said she covered herself in blood from another student and pretended to be dead as the gunman killed most of her classmates and teacher.

Gun violence survivors testify in Congress

Miguel Cerrillo is the father of Miah Cerrillo, a fourth-grade student who survived the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Miah also testified to the House committee at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Pool Photo by Jason Andrew/UPI | License Photo

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