WASHINGTON (CN) — Hours after yet another mass shooting, members of the House Judiciary Committee returned to Washington for an emergency hearing on gun control legislation, voting to advance a package of reforms aimed at curtailing gun violence as the nation remains rattled from a recent series of high-profile mass shootings.
The Protecting Our Kids Act would raise the legal age for purchasing some semi-automatic weapons from 18 to 21 years old, ban certain high-capacity gun magazines and create a new federal offense for gun trafficking and straw purchases, in which a middleman is paid to buy a gun on behalf of another.
Additional proposals would codify into federal law existing regulations from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives that ban bump stocks and require ghost guns — do-it-yourself weapons kits — to meet the same background check and serial number requirements as other guns on the market.
Provisions of the package also aim to target the safe storage of firearms, requiring the attorney general to develop best practices guidelines for gun storage and making it a finable offense to store a gun with knowledge a minor is likely to access it.
The package does not include a ban on assault weapons.
The marathon hearing on the legislation came less than 24 hours after a gunman carrying a rifle and handgun shot and killed four people Wednesday inside a medical building on a hospital campus in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and just nine days after a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
During the attack in Uvalde, an 18-year-old armed with a semi-automatic rifle killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School, the deadliest in a recent slew of mass shootings that has emboldened demands for Congress to take action on gun safety.
Just days before that attack, an 18-year-old espousing white supremacist views targeted a grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, killing 10 people and injuring three others.
“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; and in just the last few hours, as we learned about more deadly gun violence in a Tulsa, Oklahoma, medical office building, 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,’” said Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said at the beginning of Thursday’s hearing.
Acknowledging that not all gun violence can be prevented, Nadler urged the committee to vote in favor of the legislation and respond to growing calls for congressional action.
“The American people are begging for us to address this crisis,” Nadler said.
In the wake of the shootings, Republicans have largely called for mental health resources and more safety precautions at schools, while Democrats are pushing for Congress to pass gun control legislation for the first time in more than a decade.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, said that the House will vote on the package of gun control reforms next week and will soon hold a hearing on an assault weapons ban, though such comprehensive gun control legislation is unlikely to garner support in the 50-50 Senate where legislation requires 60 votes to overcome the filibuster.
Senators are currently working on their own bipartisan gun control proposals, including “red flag laws” that would authorize courts to temporarily order the seizure of firearms from people determined to be a threat to themselves or others.