The US House of Representatives has passed a bill that would ban assault weapons for the first time in decades, in response to a series of mass shootings that shocked the country.
The legislation was approved on Friday by a 217 to 213 vote in the Democrat-majority House. All but two Republicans voted against it, joined by a handful of Democrats.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the bill a “crucial step in our ongoing fight against the deadly epidemic of gun violence in our nation”.
It would ban the sale, import, manufacture or transfer of certain semi-automatic weapons.
President Joe Biden hailed the House vote, saying: “The majority of the American people agree with this common sense action.” He urged the Senate, split 50-50 between each party, to “move quickly to get this bill to my desk” but the measure is not expected to get the approval it needs to become law.
Congress placed restrictions on the manufacture and sale of assault weapons in 1994, but the legislation expired 10 years later after politicians were unable to muster the support to counter the gun lobby.
The Biden administration said that while the ban was in place, mass shootings declined.
“When the ban expired in 2004, mass shootings tripled,” the statement said. Assault rifles have emerged as the weapon of choice among the young men responsible for many of the country’s most devastating gun attacks.