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GOP lawmaker pulls out firearms during hearing on gun control legislation, prompting backlash

Republican Representative Greg Steube of Florida on Thursday brandished several guns during a heated House Judiciary Committee hearing on legislation aimed at preventing gun violence, drawing criticism for his actions.

The panel convened amid pressure on lawmakers to pass gun control legislation in the wake of several recent mass shootings. Partisan divides on the subject were made abundantly clear during the session, which lasted more than nine hours.

Although Steube was not physically present, he voiced opposition to the wide-ranging package, called the “Protecting Our Kids Act,” alongside other members of his party while making a virtual appearance from his home.

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He argued that Democrats are attempting to strip Americans of their constitutional right to bear arms due to specific measures being debated that would place restrictions on certain magazines.

“They want to take away law-abiding citizens’ ability to purchase the firearm of their choice,” Steube said. “Don’t let them fool you that they’re not attempting to take away your ability to purchase handguns. They’re using the magazine ban to do it.”

He then proceeded to pull out his own firearms — among them three handguns made by Sig Sauer — the P226, the P320, and the P365 XL — claiming that they would be banned under the bill being discussed due to the magazines they come with.

“Here’s a gun I carry every single day to protect myself, my family, my wife, my home. This is an XL SIG Sauer P365 — comes with a 15-round magazine,” said Steube, as he displayed how a lower-capacity magazine does not fit in the handgun. “So this gun would be banned.”

His demonstration raised concern, with Democratic Representative Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas interjecting as he spoke.

“I hope the gun is not loaded,” she said.

“I’m at my house. I can do whatever I want with my guns,” Steube fired back.

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He also refused to yield his time to answer questions when asked by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler.

Once the scene made the rounds online, Steube found himself on the receiving end of additional condemnation, particularly from Democrats and gun control advocates who denounced his response following the massacres at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., and an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

“Parents want to keep their kids safe at school,” tweeted the office of Democratic Representative Katherine Clark of Massachusetts. “The GOP response to that? A competition to see who can be the most outrageous in opposition to common sense reforms. They’re out of touch and don’t belong in Congress.”

Democratic Representative Eric Swalwell of California, who was also present for the hearing, said the moment was symbolic of “who Republicans are.”

“Kids are being buried and they’re bragging about how many guns they own during our gun safety hearing,” he tweeted. “They are not serious. They are a danger to our kids.”

Although the House panel advanced the legislation — which would raise the age limit for purchasing a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21 in addition to a series of other measures — along party lines, it is not likely to ultimately pass given the widespread Republican opposition.

Despite that, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that a full vote would be held on the “Protecting Our Kids Act” next week. Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of senators is engaging in talks in an effort to reach a compromise on gun safety legislation that may be able to win enough support to be enacted.

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The vote arrived as President Biden delivered a rare prime-time address to the nation, urging Congress to take action on guns and pass stricter laws to curb the violence.

“How much more carnage are we willing to accept?” Biden asked. “This time we have to take the time to do something.”


Shannon Larson can be reached at shannon.larson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.