House Judiciary to vote on package of gun violence prevention measures

WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee will hold an emergency session Thursday to advance a legislative package of gun violence prevention measures following a series of recent mass shootings across the country.

The package, called the Protecting Our Kids Act, includes red flag law incentives for states, new federal offenses for gun trafficking and straw purchases, and an increase in the legal age to purchase a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21 years old.

Democrats are trying to harness momentum for changes to the nation’s gun laws following several successive mass shootings. Some moderate Republicans have expressed openness to some proposals.

The meeting is being held during Congress’ weeklong recess, with members back home in their districts participating virtually and some others expected to appear in person.

Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., plans to open the meeting by quoting the Talmud, according to prepared remarks.

“In the days since the shooting at Tops Friendly Markets store in Buffalo, New York, and in the long, sad nights since the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, I have turned to a particular teaching in the Talmud: ‘Whoever kills one life kills the world entire, and whoever saves one life saves the world entire,'” he’s expected to say.

Nadler will then challenge Republicans who have repeatedly argued that Democrats are politicizing mass shootings to enact new policies, emphasizing the urgency of the matter by noting the time that has passed since major mass shootings without substantive action by Congress — 23 years since Columbine, 15 years since Virginia Tech, seven years since Charleston, four years since Parkland.

“It has been a week since we learned, again, that gun violence can reach any of our children and grandchildren at any time, and that no number of armed guards can guarantee their safety,” he’ll say. “Too soon? My friends, what the hell are you waiting for?”

At an event in San Francisco on Wednesday recognizing lives affected by gun violence, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the full House will vote on the legislative package next week. She also said Democrats plan to consider some version of an assault weapons ban.

Once the initial package advances, “we will be having a hearing and marking up the assault weapons ban following all of that,” she said.

Then-President Bill Clinton signed the first assault weapons ban into law in 1994 and it expired in 2004. Republican opposition has blocked Congress from re-enacting it.

Passing the initial set of bills in the Senate will be an uphill battle for Democrats, who would need at least 10 Republicans to join them to overcome a filibuster.

A bipartisan group of senators, however, has agreed on the outlines of gun violence prevention legislation. The negotiations began almost immediately after the mass shooting at the elementary school in Uvalde last week, in which 19 children and two teachers were killed.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Wednesday, “We are making rapid progress toward a common sense package that could garner support from both Republicans and Democrats.”