The Capitol Building sits under blue skies in Washington, D.C.
The Capitol Building sits under blue skies in Washington, D.C. / Stephen Gutowski

Analysis: Will House Democrats Pass an ‘Assault Weapons’ Ban? [Member Exclusive]

The House Judiciary Committee will take up an “assault weapons” ban next week, but do they have the votes to actually pass it? The lift is heavier than it appears on first glance.

H.R.1808 will be marked up and could soon make its way to the House floor. It would ban the sales and manufacturing, though not the possession of, a huge swath of firearms. While it targets AR-15s and AK-47s by name, it would apply to any semi-automatic rifle that can accept detachable magazines and has any one of the banned features such as a pistol grip or adjustable stock.

It also bans swaths of semi-automatic shotguns and handguns as well.

The legislation appears to be on good footing when looking at the number of co-sponsors. It needs 216 votes to pass, and it already has 212 co-sponsors. Adding Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and sponsor David Cicilline (D., R.I.) gets the bill to 214.

However, that count is misleading.

Four co-sponsors can’t actually vote on the bill. Three of them are non-voting delegates and former-congressman Antonio Delgado (D., N.Y.), who resigned in May.

So, the current count is really at 210.

The fact that the assault weapons ban was not part of the gun-control package the House passed late last month is another indicator of how hard those last eight votes may be to get. If they didn’t have them in the wake of the Uvalde shooting, it’s difficult to see how they’d have them now.

That’s especially true looking at recent polling. Assault weapons bans are the only gun-control policy that’s actually lost popularity in the wake of Uvalde. Quinnipiac University found support for a ban at an all-time low, down 17 points in four years, with Americans nearly evenly split on the question.

But assault weapons bans remain very popular with Democrats, as the number of co-sponsors demonstrates. And it’s far from impossible the democratically-controlled House could get one done, especially since this is probably their last chance before losing control of it.

The most obvious place to look for those last eight votes is with those who voted for the magazine ban passed as part of the House’s June gun package. It’s an analog policy and has a lot of crossover support. That part of the bill passed, but only by the thinnest margin: 220 votes.

None of the four House Republicans who voted for the magazine ban are co-sponsors of the assault weapons ban. Representatives Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Jacobs (N.Y.), Kinzinger (Ill.), and Upton (Mich.) haven’t gone on record about how they plan to vote.

Neither have the seven Democrats who voted for the mag ban but aren’t sponsoring the AR ban. Representatives Bishop (Ga.), Bush (Mo.), Defazio (Ore.), Gonzalez (Texas), O’Halleran (Ariz.), Slotkin (Mich.), and Thompson (Calif.) are likely the key to passing the bill.

But even if some of them come around, Democrats may still need some Republicans to get the bill over the line. Or they could try to flip the four Democrats who voted against the magazine ban. It seems like a longshot that Representatives Cuellar (Texas), Golden (Maine), Kind (Wis.), and Schrader (Ore.) would do that sort of turnaround, though.

None of the representatives listed above have clarified their position on the ban. Most did not respond to a request for comment. Representatives Vicente Gonzalez (D., Texas) and Fred Upton (R., Mich.) told The Reload they are waiting until the bill makes it through markup to decide whether to support its final text.

Ultimately, the best tell for whether the votes are there will likely be if the bill makes it to a final vote. In the House, there’s no point to putting up a bill you can’t pass since it would ultimately be your party that blocks it.

Even if Democrats do pull in 216 votes, it’s not entirely clear what the plan is beyond that. An assault weapons ban is not going to pass the Senate. The Senate version of the bill has just 37 co-sponsors.

If it does make it through the House on the back of swing-district Democrats taking a hard vote, it’s still likely to be defeated by Democrats in the Senate–most likely without getting a vote.

UPDATE 7-17-2022 9:41 AM EASTERN: This piece has been corrected to show Democrats currently need 216 votes, not 218, to pass the bill. 

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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