The House of Representatives passed an assault weapons ban Friday just before the summer recess, though it’s expected to be purely symbolic, as it has little chance of passing the Senate.
The 217-213 vote included 215 Democrats and two Republicans, with five Democrats voting against the bill.
It now heads to the Senate, where Democrats are relying on 10 Republicans to join all 50 Democrats in order to avoid a filibuster—an unlikely outcome, as Senate Republicans have expressed near unanimous opposition to the ban.
The bill bans the import, sale, manufacturing or transfer of semiautomatic assault weapons, with exceptions for grandfathered rifles that were already legally obtained, antique weapons, over 2,200 hunting and sporting rifles and shotguns, and weapons used by military, law enforcement and retired law enforcement.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urged House Democrats to pass the legislation Friday, in a letter sent just before noon, calling it a “crucial step in our ongoing fight against the deadly epidemic of gun violence in our nation.”
Republican Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), a key opponent to the bill, argued it “won’t make communities safer” because it takes weapons away from civilians who use them for self-defense.
The assault weapons ban was introduced in the wake of several mass shootings this summer, including the racially charged shooting in May that killed 10 at a grocery store in Buffalo and the Uvalde elementary school massacre that killed 21. Both were carried out using AR-15s, a commonly used assault rifle in mass shootings. It comes nearly a month after Congress passed another gun reform bill, which enhanced background checks for gun buyers under 21, incentivized states to enact red-flag laws allowing judges to temporarily seize firearms from people deemed “dangerous,” and closed the so-called “boyfriend” loophole, preventing non-spousal relatives convicted of domestic abuse from owning a gun. Assault weapons like AR-15s were banned from 1994 to 2004. That ban, according to a 2021 Northwestern University study, likely prevented roughly 10 public mass shootings, and would have prevented 30 more in the 18 years since it expired.
“Your political survival is insignificant compared to the survival of children who are at the mercy of these guns,” Pelosi said on the House floor.
The National Rifle Association, one of the bill’s primary opponents, argued the legislation would not “rid the U.S. of a particularly dangerous type of firearm” because of the number of firearms in the country already. There is no definitive number on how many rifles there are in the country, although the National Shooting Sports Foundation estimates 24.4 million AR-15 and AK-style rifles were manufactured in the U.S. or imported into the country between 1990 and 2020 alone.
The Democratic-run House Oversight Committee found five U.S. gunmakers made more than $1 billion off the sale of AR-15-style assault rifles over the past decade, in an investigation.