House to vote on a bill banning assault weapons

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(WASHINGTON) — House Democrats will vote Friday on a bill to ban assault weapons in the U.S.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced the vote in a letter to colleagues on Friday morning, calling the legislation “a crucial step in our ongoing fight against the deadly epidemic of gun violence in our nation.”

Pelosi urged colleagues to vote for same-day authority — a procedural hurdle that requires a separate vote — in order to fast-track the bill Friday afternoon.

The bill comes roughly two decades after Congress allowed such restrictions to lapse.

“I’m excited today because for a long time now I had wanted to reinstate the assault weapons ban,” Pelosi said in her weekly press conference ahead of the vote. “You weren’t here, maybe weren’t even born when we did this in the 90s. It was hard but it happened, and it saved lives. And I’m looking forward to having a good passage of it this afternoon.”

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President Joe Biden and gun control advocates renewed calls to outlaw weapons like AR-15 rifles in the wake of recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York; Uvalde, Texas and Highland Park, Illinois.

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering pleaded with lawmakers just last week to ban such weapons, stating she will be “haunted forever” after a shooter opened fire during the city’s Fourth of July parade, killing seven people.

Congress passed its first major piece of gun reform in 30 years in June, which enhanced background checks for potential gun buyers under the age of 21 and included money for red flag laws and mental health services. But the measure fell short of what Biden and Democrats hoped to enact.

Leading gun manufacturing executives who testified before lawmakers on Wednesday maintained that people, not firearms, cause mass shootings.

“I hope the American people are paying attention today. It is clear that gun-makers are not going to change unless Congress forces them to finally put people over profits,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the chair of the House Oversight Committee, said during the hearing.

House Democrats originally planned on including a ban on assault weapons in a broader public safety package, but division within the caucus has delayed leadership’s efforts to bring the package to the floor before the August recess.

Pelosi said Friday that work continues on the other policing measures, including legislation to create new federal grant programs for local police departments.

“House Democrats are committed to building safer communities, in every corner of the country,” she wrote. “To that end, our Members have been working on a robust package of public safety bills and have made immense progress in our discussions.”

While the assault weapons ban may clear the House, such legislation is not likely to advance in the Senate, where Democrats would need at least 10 Republican votes to overcome the filibuster.

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