McBath, Johnson join other Democrats in backing slate of gun control measures

WASHINGTON — Two Georgians are among the Democrats on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee advocating for new gun laws in response to several recent mass shootings.

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath of Marietta made her support for the legislation personal, citing her teenage son’s murder and what it taught her about the pain that parents experience when they lose a child to gun violence. She said parents in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two teachers were killed last week by an 18-year-old shooter, now know that same grief.

“It’s a sucker punch to my stomach every time I learn there’s another phone call,” McBath said. “A phone call that brings you to your knees when the desperation will not let you stand. That leaves you gasping for air when the agony will not let you breathe.”

The other Georgian on the committee, U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson of Lithonia, said mass shootings over the years justified the need for the sweeping package that would raise the age for buying semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21, expand background checks, ban high-capacity magazines for ammunition and curtail bump stocks that enable semiautomatic rifles to fire faster and akin to machine guns.

Recent shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo, New York, as well as high-profile incidents over the years in Las Vegas, Parkland, Florida, and Sandy Hook, Connecticut, demonstrated that more is needed beyond arming “good guys with a gun,” Johnson said.

“When will we stop relying upon this failed notion that the only thing that stops bad guys is good guys?” he said during debate. “Congress can stop some bad guys with some good legislation, and that’s what we’re here to do today.”

Much of the discussion during Thursday’s hearing showed a clear partisan divide. While Johnson, McBath and the other Democrats called for stricter gun laws, Republicans said any limits on the sale or purchase of guns and accessories would make schools and law-abiding citizens less safe while infringing on Second Amendment rights.

“We all want to keep children safe in school, but this bill wouldn’t do that,” said Ohio U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee. “This bill is just another Democrat attack on the Second Amendment, and it’s likely just the start.”

The gun safety legislation was approved by the committee on a party-line vote, lining up floor action for next week. The House is also expected to bring to the floor a separate bill sponsored by McBath that would create a national “red flag” law to allow guns to be taken away from people deemed a threat to themselves or others. Speaker Nancy Pelosi also says she would like a vote on reinstating a ban on assault weapon.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators is in discussions in hopes of coming up with a package that can get the support of 60 members in that chamber to avoid a filibuster. As a result, whatever the Senate comes up with is likely to be less sweeping and far-reaching than what House Democrats are pushing.