House Rules Committee approves "assault weapons" ban in emergency hearing

It’s the last stop for HR 1808 before it hits the House floor, and we got a preview of what this afternoon’s floor debates are going to look like during an emergency hearing of the House Rules Committee on Friday afternoon.


Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York and Kentucky’s Thomas Massie were the main witnesses for the committee, and while I’m definitely biased I found Massie’s argument to be far more persuasive than Nadler. Massie correctly pointed out several inconsistencies in the legislation, including the fact that some guns that are specifically exempted in the ban have receivers that are explicitly banned by the legislation. Massie also scored a valid point by bringing up the fact that Democrats keep talking about banning “weapons of war” that aren’t in service in any branch of our military, while exempting rifles like the M1-Garand that have been used on the battlefield.

Nadler, meanwhile, doubled down on his absurd claim that pistol stabilizing braces act as “bump stocks” that mimic fully-automatic fire, and for a few minutes seemed completely unaware that the Democrats’ manager’s amendment to HR 1808 says that pistol stabilizing braces are allowed as long as they’re not designed to assist a gun from being shoulder-fired, which contradicts (according to Massie) the impending ATF rule change that would prohibit most stabilizing braces from being attached to pistols. I get the distinct impression that the particulars of the legislation are of far less importance to the Democrats than simply being able to say they passed a gun ban.


Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) complained to Massie that the “vast majority of firearms” owned by Americans aren’t being banned, and argued that the bill doesn’t ban the possession of existing modern sporting rifles. When Massie pointed out that the concern among gun owners is that within a generation these guns would in fact be banned entirely, Raskin responded with a hypothetical: wouldn’t it be worth it if it could save the lives of 20 kindergarteners in Kentucky.

Massie argued that the type of cowardly killers who would target a classroom of kids aren’t going to be thwarted by banning AR-15s, and he rejected outright the idea that a ban will save lives. He could have also pointed out that the ban is at least as likely to prevent 20 law-abiding citizens from being able to protect themselves and their families, but he demonstrated restraint and frankly, more civility than his Democratic counterparts over the course of the hearing.

While all of the Democrats on the Rules Committee expressed support for the ban in its current form and talked about how if this measure becomes law people will be able “walk down the street without worrying about being struck down” by gunfire, none of them could explain how that would be possible without doing something about the more than 24-million “assault weapons” in the hands of law-abiding citizens; either turning them over to the government or being destroyed by their owners. Nor could they explain why they support the grandfather clause in HR 1808, though a few, like Raskin, were more than willing to point to the clause as a sign of Democrats’ “reasonableness” on the issue.


After about an hour and a half of testimony, the Rules Committee concluded its hearing and cast a party-line vote in favor of discharging the bill to the House floor, where debate and a vote are expected to begin this afternoon. While we’ve not yet seen confirmation that Democrats have the votes for passage, I highly doubt that Nancy Pelosi would be bringing the bill forward unless she felt confident that the bill will win approval, even without being paired with the bill to increase grants for law enforcement that progressives have objected to. It’s going to be close one way or the other, but at the moment the gun ban appears to have momentum… which will come to an abrupt stop if and when it hits the Senate. More on that later today.

Join the conversation as a VIP Member