House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York announced this morning that the committee plans on marking up a bill to ban the sale and purchase of most semi-automatic rifles next week, even though the bill has no real chance of making it out of the Senate… and may not even pass the House itself despite a slim Democratic majority.
It’s a bit of political theater designed to motivate the Democratic base ahead of the midterms, but this is also going to have an energizing effect on Republican voters and will force some swing-district Democrats to cast a vote that may not go over well with the voters back home.
“It is beyond frightening and disturbing that a weapon that was designed as a tool of war has found its way into the hands of 18 year olds and onto our streets,” Nadler said in a statement. “Any weapon that allows for the quick and efficient slaughter of children in our schools has no place in our communities.”
The bill, sponsored by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), would prohibit the sale, transfer, import and manufacture of hundreds of models of semi-automatic weapons that boast certain specific features, including those that combine pistol grips with detachable magazines. The ban would not apply to people who already own such weapons.
Those firearms rank among the most popular in the country, and opponents of the ban — including all but a handful of Republicans — say it would trample on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners.
Supporters counter that the Constitution, written in an age of single-shot muzzle loaders, was not intended to apply to much more powerful and efficient weapons, especially since they’ve been the popular choice of perpetrators in countless mass shootings over the past decade.
“How many more kids need to die in their schools before we finally crack down on these dangerous firearms which were designed for war?” said Cicilline.
If Cicilline and Nadler really believed the words coming out of their mouths then the bill in question wouldn’t grandfather in the tens of millions of semi-automatic rifles that are currently in the hands of American gun owners. I mean, if these commonly-owned firearms have “no place in our communities,” then why should any Democrat bother to support a bill that doesn’t remove those guns through confiscation or a mandatory “buy back”? Not that I’m calling for that, mind you, just pointing out that the Democrats’ rhetoric doesn’t match the reality that this bill wouldn’t touch the large number of legally-owned firearms that they themselves claim shouldn’t be in the hands of anyone other than the military and police.
Over at HotAir, my colleague Allahpundit says the push for a gun ban makes little sense from a political perspective.
Imagine the agony of House Dems who represent purple or reddish districts, being forced to cast a vote on this bill knowing that there’s no way to please both sides back home *and* that the bill is doomed in the Senate even if it passes. It’s a pyrrhic victory for the party even if Pelosi can get to 218. Which makes me wonder if she knows that she can’t and is sending the bill to the Judiciary Committee simply to signal to lefties that their leaders are interested in passing something … before the bill quietly disappears and never comes to the floor for a vote.
Schumer would face the same problem in the Senate. What does he gain by calling a vote on the House bill knowing that doing so will force vulnerable incumbents like Mark Kelly and Maggie Hassan to cast a thankless vote shortly before the midterms? Senate Dems almost certainly won’t get to 50 votes on the bill in any event; Punchbowl notes that Dianne Feinstein’s AWB bill has only 37 sponsors. Which means not only will the bill fail, it may fail spectacularly and hand Republicans a “Dems in disarray” talking point. So much for Team Blue’s big play for suburbanites.
Democrats are already looking at almost certainly losing control of the House this fall, so this may be both a “now or never” moment as well as a desperate attempt to distract voters from the unceasing and increasing economic pain brought to you by the Biden administration. I don’t think it’s going to play out the way Nadler and Ciccilline are hoping for, even if they can cobble together the votes for passage in the House, which, according to Punchbowl, is not a sure thing. Not only will this rightfully give Republicans yet another reason to turn out in November, Ciccillini’s bill appears to run afoul of the Supreme Court’s test for gun control laws laid out in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which requires governments to prove that a challenged law comports not only with the text of the Second Amendment, but the history and tradition of that right as its been exercised in this country, particularly at the time of the ratification of the Second and Fourteenth Amendments.
As we’ve pointed out here previously, there’s simply no historical analogue to the type of gun ban that Ciccillini is proposing here, other than the previous ban imposed in 1994 that was allowed to expire ten years later. It’s hard to call that a “longstanding” law, especially since the ban was not renewed, and the handful of other “assault weapons” bans that have been put in place in blue states like California since the 1990s are more outliers than evidence of a widespread view that the most commonly-sold rifles in the country aren’t protected by the right to keep and bear arms.
Of course, House Democrats are no more inclined to accept the Court’s opinion in Bruen than the New York lawmakers who’ve thumbed their nose at SCOTUS by passing new restrictions on concealed carry that are meant to make bearing arms for self-defense both incredibly onerous and legally dangerous. Their contempt for the Supreme Court and our constitutional right to keep and bear arms is clear. The future of Ciccillini’s legislation, on the other hand, is still decidedly murky despite today’s announcement by Nadler.