WASHINGTON -- Wednesday's vote by the House to increase the minimum age for semi-automatic rifles was part of a package gun bills. This is in response to the horrific spate of mass shootings that have rocked the country.
It was 228 to 199. The vote was mostly along party lines with almost all Democrats voting "yes" while only a few Republicans voting "no."
The Protecting Our Kids Act includes the age provision. This legislation was written by Democrats and is scheduled for a final House vote on Wednesday night. To pressure Republican lawmakers who resist toughening gun laws, party leaders divided the package into separate votes.
"Why? "Why would anyone oppose raising the age for teenagers to have AK-47s?" Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker, stated Wednesday during an event with gun violence advocates. They also mention mental health issues. We want to address mental issues. Others have mental health problems. They don't have an epidemic of gun violence."
House Republican leaders sent an email to GOP offices urging them to vote "no," in a demeaning labelling it the "Unconstitutional Gun Restrictions Act."
Steve Scalise (Republican House Minority Whip), said that Congress should address the root problem, not impose gun restrictions. He argued that lawmakers didn't ban planes following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
"Airplanes were used that morning as a weapon to kill thousands and inflict terror upon our country. Scalise stated that there was no discussion about banning planes.
Protecting Our Kids Act bans large-capacity ammunition feeders and imposes harsher penalties for gun trafficking. The bill would also establish rules for residential gun storage, with criminal sanctions for those who violate them. The bill would also require registration of bump stock-type devices, and change the definition for a "ghostgun" that is subject regulation.
Republicans face some pressure to support tougher laws following recent shootings, including the attack at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde (Texas), which shocked the nation. CBS News recently conducted a poll that found Americans prefer stricter gun laws to less stringent measures by a 5-to-1 ratio.
The poll found that 77 percent of respondents believed the minimum age for semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15 should have been 21, if not higher.
House Majority Whip StenyHoyer, D.Md., stated that the killing of children was not a political issue.
The House's legislative package is almost certain to fail in the 50-50 Senate. This is because Republicans are able to veto gun legislation through the filibuster. Separate negotiations are underway on a slimmer bill, which is unlikely to include an increase in the rifle purchase age.
Senator John Cornyn, chief Republican negotiator from Texas, opposes raising the age minimum and seeks to reach a deal that will win approximately half of the 50-member GOP caucus.
Thom Tillis (Republican from North Carolina), who is part the negotiating group said that raising the minimum age for semi-automatic weapons purchase was not on the table but it may be brought up in future negotiations.
Despite this, there are still signs of movement in Senate, even though semi-automatic rifles were used recently in shootings in Buffalo (New York) and Uvalde (Texas).
Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), the most conservative Democrat in Senate, voted for raising the age limit to 21. Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah said that raising the age to 21 makes a lot more sense. Senator Susan Collins from Maine said that she is open to the idea.
She said, "It is certainly alarming that such a large number of mass killers were between the ages 18 and 21."
There are calls for action from some Republicans living in conservative states.
"Wyoming, which is very Second Amendment-supporting, has many people calling me to say, Leave our gun rights in their place. "I've also heard many calls from people saying, try and find something you can work on this," Senator Cynthia Lummis, Wyoming, said.