I’ll give this to Nancy Pelosi; her ideas and ideology are absolutely terrible, but she’s an incredibly effective Speaker of the House. Just a couple of days after Pelosi told reporters that a vote to ban so-called assault weapons was going to be pushed back until after the August recess because of unresolved intra-caucus disputes about that bill and another measure to fund grants for local law enforcement, the House revived the gun ban bill on Friday morning and ended up approving the measure on Friday afternoon by the most narrow of margins, and in time for her to catch her flight to Asia, with the recorded vote being 217-213 with two Republicans voting in favor of the ban and five Democrats opposed (and one Republican not voting).
The swift journey for HR 1808 started on Thursday evening when the House Rules Committee scheduled an emergency meeting to pass a rule allowing legislation to be sent to the House floor the same day it’s considered, even without the 2/3rds majority support that’s typically needed. On Friday morning, the House approved that rule with 218 votes in favor; all of them coming from Democrats.
Ironically, the debate over the resolution, which was supposed to last for 60 minutes, actually took far less time than the “15 minute” vote on the resolution itself, which ultimately lasted for well over an hour. The “15 minute” aye/nay vote started at 10:06 a.m. and magically lasted until almost 11:20 in order to give Democrats enough time to twist arms get the caucus to fall in line. Democrats did ultimately hit their magic number of 216, however, and actually had two votes to spare to adopt the rule.
Less than an hour later, at a little past noon Eastern, the House Rules Committee gaveled in another emergency meeting that was scheduled on short notice in order to pass HR 1808 out of committee and send it on to the House floor.
During that Rules Committee hearing, Rep. Jim McGovern claimed in one breath that the bill must pass with urgency in order to “save lives,” while pointing out that Republicans have had more than 500 days to read the text of HR 1808. If this bill is truly about public safety, why did Democrats wait more than a year before bringing the bill to the floor of the House for a vote? I know I’ve said it before but the push for a gun ban this week is about saving Democratic seats, not saving any lives.
Republicans in the Rules Committee unanimously opposed approving HR 1808, but with Democrats in the majority on the committee the objections about a “ultimately pointless political exercise” fell on deaf ears and the measure was sent to the House floor just after 1:30 p.m. Eastern. Shortly before 2 p.m. the House took up the motion to consider HR 1808, with Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern leading the debate for Democrats.
McGovern was quick to say that this bill is not “taking away anyone’s guns”, but moments later declared that people don’t have the right to own the firearms banned under HR 1808. That begs the question; if Democrats don’t believe that anyone should own these types of firearms, why aren’t they adopting Joe Biden’s campaign plan to require existing owners of AR-15s and other semi-automatic rifles to either hand them over to the government or register them under the National Firearms Act?
The honest answer is that Pelosi and House Democratic leadership were unsure of support for the ban as late as Thursday afternoon, and if the bill actually required existing owners to give up their guns it likely would’ve drawn enough opposition from embattled Democrats running for re-election in close districts that it would have failed. Those who voted in favor of this bill aren’t going to be satisfied with what passed the House today. This is an intermediate step, not an end goal.
Still, there was an obvious contradiction for Democrats with comments from representatives like this from Jerry Nadler:
Assault weapons are tools of war, meant to kill efficiently. They have no place in our communities. Congress must vote to pass the #assaultweaponsban and get these weapons off of our streets.
— Rep. Nadler (@RepJerryNadler) July 29, 2022
Then there was North Carolina’s Deborah Ross, who started out her statement in support of the ban by declaring it “doesn’t take away anyone’s guns” before saying seconds later that no one should be able to own them without “specialized training.” The whole thrust of the Democrats’ arguments is about “saving lives” and “no one needs to own these guns” while also patting themselves on the back and trying to reassure gun owners that they can keep their “weapons of war.”
For that matter, why did Democrats wait 500 days between the introduction of HR 1808 and its first hearing in the Judiciary Committee if this gun ban is so urgently needed? Supports of the ban did a great job of emotionalizing this debate, declaring that opponents have taken “blood money” from the NRA in order to keep “weapons of war” (yeah, that got used a lot) in the hands of millions of Americans, but they never did explain why they’re supposedly okay with those guns staying there as long as new sales are banned.
Democrats like Sheila Jackson Lee accused Republicans of trying to scare gun owners into thinking that the left is coming for their guns, but my question to her would be “why on earth would any gun owner take your word that you won’t try to repeal that grandfather clause at some point in the future?”
Well, that would be one question anyway. “Why are you so intent on passing something so clearly unconstitutional” would be another. Democrats like McGovern and Jerry Nadler, who shepherded the bill through the Judiciary Committee, are well aware that a federal judge (appointed by Barack Obama, incidentally) in Colorado recently granted an injunction against a town that had adopted a local “assault weapons” ban, declaring that “”the Court is unaware of historical precedent that would permit a governmental entity to entirely ban a type of weapon that is commonly used by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes, whether in an individual’s home or in public.”
We know the answer, of course. The Democrats have no respect at all for the Court or its opinions, particularly after the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Passing a bill that would almost certainly be overturned if ever enacted into law isn’t a wasted opportunity to them, but a chance to show their base that they’re “fighting”.
The floor debate over the gun ban itself played out in much the same way; Democrats falsely promising that passing the ban would save lives, proclaiming that AR-15s need to be “taken off the street” while touting the fact that the bill doesn’t take away anyone’s gun, and making an emotional but ultimately nonsensical argument in favor of the ban. Republicans, meanwhile, largely avoided the emotional rhetoric and focused on statistics and the likely unconstitutionality of the ban if it’s ever challenged in court. Thomas Massie once again provided a master course in the hyperbole and misleading statements used in support of HR 1808, pointing out both technical problems with the legislation and the flaws with the Democrats’ argument that the previous ban on so-called assault weapons reduced violent crimes.
In the end, with the help of rhetoric like that from Rep. Gerry Connolly, who proclaimed that House members would be “bathed in blood” if they didn’t vote to ban the future sale of so-called assault weapons (while allowing people to keep the 24-million currently possessed, of course), Pelosi was able to sweet talk and strong arm enough of her caucus to vote for the gun ban as a standalone measure with promises that progressives will go along with the bills to increase grant money to local law enforcement when the House comes back from its August recess. Pelosi cynically argued that saving children’s lives was more important than saving political careers, but sadly, that’s exactly what today’s vote is all about.
While the bill is almost certainly doomed to defeat in the Senate, gun owners shouldn’t dismiss today’s vote too easily. There’s nothing moderate, reasonable, or common sense about the gun ban approved by the House today, but Democrats are almost uniformly behind it nonetheless. The only thing stopping this bill from being rammed through the Senate on a 51-50 vote are a couple of senators who say they won’t nuke the filibuster. If Democrats hold the House this November (unlikely, but not impossible) and pick up a couple of Senate seats (a distinct possibility, unfortunately) they could jam this bill and much worse down the throats of tens of millions of law-abiding Americans in just a few months.