Thanks to the Democratic victory in November and what advocates say is a new national attitude regarding the pervasiveness of firearms in America, 20 gun-related bills and resolutions have been introduced in the 116th Congress so far this year, including 13 in the House of Representatives.
Another was to be added Wednesday by Democratic Rep. Anthony Brown of Maryland and dozens of co-sponsors. It would raise the minimum age to buy semi-automatic assault-style weapons from 18 to 21. Federal statute already prohibits sales of handguns to anyone under 21. Four states—Washington, Illinois, Florida, and Vermont—already set the age limit for assault-style weapons at 21, and seven others, including California and New York, ban sales of such weapons to anyone. The National Rifle Association is suing Florida over its law.
Brown brought the same legislation last year in the wake of the slaughter of 17 students and staffers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The murderer was 18 when he legally bought the semi-automatic assault-style rifle used in the slayings. Brown’s bill failed to pass the Republican-dominated House in 2018, but now Democrats have the majority. Three Republicans have joined as co-sponsors—Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Brian Mast of Florida, and Peter King of New York.
The bill includes exemptions for active-duty military personnel and some police officers:
Last March, Trump told a group of lawmakers in a meeting that aired live on cable news that he supported raising the minimum age to purchase semi-automatic weapons to 21.
“It doesn’t make sense that I have to wait until I’m 21 to get a handgun, but I can get this weapon at 18,” Trump said then. The remark stunned Capitol Hill. Within weeks, however, Trump reversed his position after a high-profile meeting with the National Rifle Association.
Chances are slim that such a bill would be passed—or even considered—in the Senate, where the Republicans have a 53-47 majority over Democrats and Democratic-caucusing independents. And, of course, the squatter in the Oval Office would veto it if it did. But as in the case of a broad range of bills being introduced in the House this year, Brown’s and other gun proposals are seen as providing legislative ammunition to help spur voters to give Democrats the Senate majority and the White House in the 2020 election, and thus provide them the political clout to actually turn those bills into law. In other words, this is messaging legislation.