WASHINGTON: The US House of Representatives passed a package of gun violence prevention measures on a mostly party-line vote on Wednesday evening, even as the bill faces little hope of clearing the evenly divided Senate.
Five Republicans joined Democrats in a 223-204 vote for a bill that rolled together eight other gun control bills, such as raising the age to 21 to buy certain rifles, limiting magazine sizes and codifying existing gun control regulations.
It faces stiff headwinds in the Senate. During the floor debate, Democrats said Congress must address a surge in mass shootings in recent weeks, both at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and across the country.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the House would move forward with another gun bill on Thursday, even as fragile bipartisan talks continue in the Senate.
"We've seen promising signs from the Senate that bipartisan agreement may be possible," Hoyer said. "I surely hope it is. This House will not, should not wait to act."
Democrats have argued that public opinion is on their side on "commonsense" proposals to address one of the most politically sensitive issues in Congress.
A Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday showed 74 per cent of US adults supported raising the age to purchase guns to 21, and 83 per cent supported so-called red flag laws for emergency gun seizures.
Kentucky representative Thomas Massie and other Republicans on Wednesday argued the bill would be "dead on arrival in the Senate,"and likely unconstitutional for overly restricting Americans' Second Amendment rights.
Conservative and gun rights groups have mobilised against the legislation, and the Gun Owners of America, Heritage Action for America and National Rifle Association alerted members that this vote would be used in their lawmaker evaluations.
Republicans argued for measures that would "harden" schools, such as more funding for school security or armed guards. Massie and some others argued to repeal gun-free school zones and "stop advertising our schools as soft targets."
Democrats pushed back on that argument, citing apparent police inaction during the mass shooting in Uvalde, which claimed 21 lives.
The bill the House approved on Wednesday would raise the age to purchase some rifles from 18 to 21, limit magazine sizes, codify regulations banning bump stocks and ghost guns, and provide standards for safe gun storage.
The four hours of debate included seven separate votes on different parts of the bill, including an amendment added to require a report on the demographics of background check denials. That series of votes followed a letter last week from 21 moderate Democrats asking to split up the package bill that the House Judiciary Committee advanced on Thursday.
The House also plans to vote on Thursday on a second bill that would establish a "red flag" procedure in federal courts to allow individuals and police to seek extreme risk protection orders for the temporary seizure of firearms. - dpa