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House passes Assault Weapons Ban in last-minute vote

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks during her weekly press conference before the August recess at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Friday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks during her weekly press conference before the August recess at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Friday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

July 29 (UPI) -- The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation banning assault weapons on Friday, weeks after several high-profile mass shootings again put focus on the issue.

The Democratic-controlled chamber passed the Assault Weapons Ban of 2022, as the legislation is titled, by a vote of 217-213. Five Democrats voted with Republicans against the bill, while two Republicans voted in favor.

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President Joe Biden praised the passage of the legislation for going beyond the restrictions put in place by last month's Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

"When guns are the number one killer of children in America, when more children die from guns than active-duty police and active-duty military combined, we have to act," he said.

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"The majority of the American people agree with this common sense action. The should Senate move quickly to get this bill to my desk, and I will not stop fighting until it does. 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."

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Despite its passage in the House, the evenly split Senate isn't expected to have the 60 votes necessary to approve it.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for a last-minute vote on the bill earlier Friday.

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"Today, our Democratic Majority will take up and pass the Assault Weapons Ban legislation: a crucial step in our ongoing fight against the deadly epidemic of gun violence in our nation," Pelosi said in a letter to Democratic lawmakers.

The proposed assault weapons ban forbids the sale, manufacture, transfer, possession or import of certain types of semi-automatic rifles and large-capacity ammunition feeding devices.

The law includes definitions and bans of ammunition feeding devices that are not fixed ammunition feeding devices, a variety of detachable components and devices and includes a list of specific firearms that legislators expect could be altered using the banned devices and components.

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In addition to sections grandfathering firearms and devices owned before passage and signing of the legislation -- if it happens -- is a lengthy list of firearms that are exempt from the law.

"We are in the midst of a gun violence epidemic -- an epidemic of carnage and unspeakable loss that has left far too many families broken," Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., who proposed the legislation, recently said. "And we know something that will reduce this bloodshed, because we saw the Assault Weapons Ban work from 1994-2004."

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During a debate on the legislation on the House floor Friday evening, Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., said the founding fathers couldn't have predicted the kinds of mass shootings taking place in the United States, including the one that killed 60 people at a 2017 concert held in her district in Las Vegas.

"When the founding fathers wrote the 2nd Amendment, these kinds of weapons didn't even exist. They had muskets and flintlock pistols that could fire three or four shots in a minute -- on a good day -- and they weren't accurate at all," she said. "The founding fathers did not know or anticipate these weapons of mass destruction that shooters use today to kill as many innocent people as brutally and quickly as possible."

Rep. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Wis., sought to exclude active military members and veterans from the ban.

"What this bill seeks to do is prevent this member of the military who comes home either to the reserve unit or National Guard unit or on active duty from purchasing a rifle that they can use on their own," he said on the House floor. "My colleagues who support the bill are saying, we trusted you to join the service, we encouraged you to join the service but now when it comes down to it, we really don't trust you to go out and purchase that weapon."

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Friday's vote was the first time since 2004 that Congress attempted to reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban. Politico reported that Pelosi decided to hold the vote separately from a broader package of policing bills that Democrats had been unable to agree on.

Some lawmakers are concerned there isn't enough accountability in the policing legislation.

Pelosi had delayed planned votes on the larger legislation Wednesday to give Democrats more time to iron out disagreements, but when a compromise appeared unlikely before lawmakers leave for August recess, she decided to hold a last-minute vote on just the weapons ban.

This week in Washington

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during her weekly press conference before the August recess at the Capitol on Friday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

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