WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an act that was largely political theater prior to the upcoming mid-term election, the U.S. House passed a tough gun control measure on June 8.
The Protect Our Kids Act was passed on a mostly party-line vote, with five Republicans in favor and two Democrats against. That legislation raises the age for purchasing a semi-automatic weapon to 21 and bans the sale of large-capacity magazines.
Most of Utah’s lawmakers on Capitol Hill opposed the measure; the exception was Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT).
“Our decision-making process must be based on evidence and rooted in collaboration,” said U.S. Rep. Blake Moore (R-UT). “House Democrats are rushing a bill that punishes law-abiding gun owners, is sure to fail in the Senate and lacks any Republican input.”
On the Senate side of Capitol Hill, where the Protect Our Kids Act faces a 60-vote threshold for passage, most senators predicted that the measure is dead on arrival.
But Romney told CNN on Thursday that he supports raising the age to purchase an assault rifle from 18 to 21.
“You have to be 21 to buy a handgun,” Romney said. “So saying you also have to be 21 to buy an assault rifle seems to make sense.”
But the devil is in the details. Lawmakers can’t even agree on what constitutes an “assault rifle.”
But the Protect Our Kids Act avoids that trap by keeping all semi-automatic rifles out of the hands of 18-, 19- and 20-year olds, including popular .22 caliber rifles. That’s clearly unconstitutional, according to Republicans.
“I am continuously disappointed that Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi and House Democrats are uninterested in sitting down to chart a path forward on bipartisan and productive solutions to this critical issue,” Moore said.
U.S. Rep. John Curtis (R-UT) agreed. After voting against the Protect Our Kids Act on Wednesday, he told reporters that he would happily consider thoughtful legislation that “keeps guns out of the hands of those we can all agree shouldn’t have them.”
The House vote came after a day of testimony from victims and family members of the recent elementary school shooting in Uvalde, TX that killed 19 children and two adults.
“A more collaborative approach is the only way we can ensure criminals like the man who opened fire in Uvalde never have the chance to devastate a community with such horrific violence,” Moore argued.
But Democrats insist that the Uvalde shooting is typical of such incidents. The shooter was an 18-year-old who carried both an assault rifle and a semi-automatic handgun. Problem solved, they say.
“Americans have rights to both protection as well as personal safety,” Moore acknowledges. “I believe those rights can co-exist (with the 2nd Amendment).”
To accomplish that, Congress has to deal with complex issues behind these shooting incidents, he said.
Moore emphasized that he would support bipartisan legislation that would fund mental health counselors and school resource officers.
We also need to thoroughly examine school safety protocols and close loopholes in school security; create resources to prevent bullying; improve our background check system; and, provide support to people before they resort to violence, he added.