House Democrats on Wednesday plan to introduce legislation that would raise the nationwide minimum age to buy assault-style rifles from 18 to 21.
The legislation, which is part of the Democrats' plan since taking back the House to address mass shootings, would prohibit anyone under the age of 21 from buying semi-automatic rifles. There would be exceptions made for active-duty military members and some police officers.
Across the country, most states permit anyone 18 years or older to purchase a semi-automatic rifle, even though federal law stipulates that the minimum age to buy a handgun is 21.
The NRA has strongly opposed past proposals to raise the minimum age for purchasing a weapon, arguing that it does nothing to prevent illegal gun sales and only hinders legitimate buyers.
"When we talk about age restriction, increasing ages, you’re not punishing a gangbanger in Chicago," NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch said on "Fox & Friends" last March. "Not punishing those individuals adjudicated unfit and dangerous to themselves and states are not submitted records to [National Crime Information Center]."
"You’re punishing people like I was, 20 years old living on my own. You’re punishing the 19-year-old deer hunter, looking forward to deer season. Those are people you’re punishing."
While the Democrats spearheading the legislation say they would prefer an all-out ban on assault weapons, they added that this piecemeal approach is more likely to gain bipartisan support.
“I’m all about banning assault weapons,” Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md., told Politico. Brown added that the idea of raising the minimum age to purchase these weapons was first raised by President Trump after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 students and school staffers dead.
Brown introduced the same legislation last year, but it failed to pass in the Republican-controlled House. Now with the Democrats in control – and with some bipartisan support – Brown is hopeful the legislation will pass the chamber.
So far, three Republicans have offered their support to Brown’s bill: Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Brian Mast of Florida and Peter King of New York.
“By raising the age restrictions for military-style semiautomatic weapons, this bipartisan bill provides parity with handgun purchases,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement. “While continuing to support Second Amendment rights, this Congress can take meaningful action to protect our children and keep our communities safe.”
Still, if it passes the House, the legislation would face a steep climb in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Brown hopes the bill will be one of many in the Democrats' push for stricter gun control regulation.
The first bill expected to make it to the House floor is one introduced by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., that would make universal background checks mandatory for most gun purchases.