House lawmakers went back and forth Thursday in raw, emotional testimony as they fought over whether to enact new gun restrictions in the wake of continued mass shootings.
Democrats leading the House Judiciary Committee recounted the horror of shootings stretching back decades. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Ga., whose son Jordan Davis was shot and killed in 2012, said there was no time left to act.
“We cannot keep doing this. An entire generation of children are learning that the adults cannot or will not protect them,” McBath said. “This is the moment. It may be the only moment we have left.”
House Republicans lamented they were kept out of talks for the legislation taken up Thursday and argued that Democrats were moving too fast with proposals that will only curb Second Amendment gun rights.
“I can tell you this, and let me be clear, you are not going to bully your way into stripping Americans of their fundamental rights,” Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., said.
House lawmakers spent the morning debating the Protect Our Kids Act, a sweeping package of gun restrictions that would raise the age for buying a semiautomatic rifle, enact new limits on magazine sizes, regulate gun storage and curb the sale of bump stocks and so-called ghost guns.
Throughout the testimony, Democrats recounted gut-wrenching anecdotes from the most recent spate of attacks. Madeleine Dean spoke of the 11-year-old who covered herself in her classmate’s blood to hide from the shooter at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
“What have we taught our children?” Dean said.
But House Republicans framed the argument as an attempt by Democrats to seize control from citizens by limiting their ability to protect themselves.
“You can’t make a good law by putting six bad laws together,” said Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who drew criticism on Twitter last December for posting a Christmas photo of him and his family wielding guns days after a school shooting in Michigan.
Democrats and Republicans on the panel continued on the same track through rest of the session, which lasted into the evening.
At one point, Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., who appeared from his home via Zoom, pulled out a several of his own guns and their ammunition magazines, showing them to the panel to argue that a limit on magazines was unrealistic.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., chastised him for pulling a loaded weapon during a congressional hearing, but Steube countered that he was allowed to do so because he was in his home.
Meanwhile, talks in the Senate, where a bipartisan measure has seemed likely to pass, became mired in Washington’s political reality.
“I’m certainly prepared for failure,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., the lead negotiator for his party, told CNN Thursday. But Murphy added that he expected a compromise that was limited to marginal changes would attract more Republican senators and make it to President Biden’s desk.