July 30, 2022
The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday evening passed a sweeping ban on so-called “assault weapons” and many other firearms. The vote was mostly along party lines, with the measure passing by a 217-to-213 vote.
Five Democrats voted against the measure, while two Republicans—Rep. Chris Jacobs of New York and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania—double-crossed their constituents and voted for the gun-ban bill.
After indicating she would wait until after the upcoming Congressional recess before holding a House vote on the ban, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did an about-face and pushed the bill onto the House floor. The vote was made possible by an emergency rules change Democrats pushed through on Friday.
The measure, similar to the Clinton gun ban of the 1990s but more restrictive, would ban the sale of semi-automatic rifles and shotguns that are equipped with one or more features, including a pistol grip, flash suppressor or adjustable stock. Additionally, it would ban hundreds more guns by name, including the most popular rifle in America—the AR-15 or Modern Sporting Rifle (MSR).
The bill contains a grandfather clause that would let current owners of the banned firearms keep them. However, they would have to be registered in order for the gun owner to prove he or she owned the firearm before the law took effect.
The reaction from pro-2A groups was swift, with the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) releasing a statement within 10 minutes of the announcement of the voting results.
“This legislation is as dangerous as it is revealing of the contempt for which the House Democrats hold for the Constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF’s senior vice president and general counsel. “Chairman Jerrold Nadler admitted during debate in his committee that he didn’t care the legislation was unconstitutional and defied Supreme Court precedent. Democratic representatives are not fulfilling the interest of ‘the People,’ instead representing special-interest gun control groups that seek to disarm law-abiding citizens and scapegoat them for crimes committed by others.”
Arguing for the measure, anti-gun Democrats seemed perfectly willing to ignore—or even lambast—the U.S. Constitution in the process. U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Massachusetts, even called voting “No” to the measure, “hiding behind the Second Amendment.”
“Maybe some of my colleagues have lost the human ability to feel what that really means,” McGovern said, referring to murderers using firearms in their crimes. “The idea that somehow we can’t do anything about it, I don’t think anybody buys that. This is the right thing to do.
“To defend AR-15s that can destroy the bodies of people. At some point we have to say enough is enough. At some point we have to turn our words into action.”
As pro-gun groups had pointed out to their members, the measure went much farther than just banning AR-15-type rifles, which is one of the goals of Pelosi and other anti-gun Democrats in Congress.
“The Supreme Court’s recent Bruen decision reaffirmed that the right to keep and bear arms is not limited to those weapons that were only available in 1791,” Erich Pratt, senior vice president of Gun Owners of America, said in a prepared statement. “Just as we have First Amendment protected speech on computers and cell phones, even though neither of those were around during the ratification of the Bill of Rights, we have a constitutionally protected right to keep and bear modern-day sporting rifles.”
GOA and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) sent out alerts to members asking them to contact their representative and insist they vote “No” on the legislation.
Of course, given the recent Supreme Court decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, the Democrat-supported measure currently under consideration would likely run afoul the current interpretation of the Constitution—specifically because government is forbidden to restrict access to “commonly used arms.”
The AR-15-type rifle is a commonly used arm, indeed, as pointed out last week by a new NSSF report on ownership of Modern Sporting Rifles. In that report, NSSF said that MSRs remain the most-popular selling centerfire semi-automatic rifle in the United States today, with more MSRs in circulation than there are Ford F-Series trucks on the road.
Interestingly, authors of the bill apparently recognized that some of the provisions run afoul of the Constitution, so included a clause in the measure designed to salvage some parts if others are found unconstitutional.
“If any provision of this Act, an amendment made by this Act, or the application of such provision or amendment to any person or circumstance is held to be unconstitutional, the remainder of the Act, the amendments made by this Act, and the application of such provision or amendment to any person or circumstance shall not be affected thereby.”
Now, the fate of semi-auto rifles rests with the U.S. Senate. And while the outcome there is uncertain, pro-gun advocates hope the Senate will kill the bill.
“There appears to be no appetite for the Senate to consider banning what the Supreme Court has already determined to be lawful firearms,” Mark Oliva, managing director of public affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), told Firearms News. “These are commonly owned, with more than 24.4 million in circulation today. If this bill is passed by the House, there is little chance that it moves in the Senate.”
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for more than 20 years.