Sandy Hook is central to Hillary Clinton's new ads. From Clinton's ad

Washington – Gun control supporters and victims of gun violence in the U.S. House gallery yelled “thank you” to the group of mostly-Democratic lawmakers who passed a bill Wednesday that would expand federal background checks for gun purchases and transfers.

The vote on the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 was  240-190, the first time in at least 25 years that the U.S. House has approved a substantial gun control measure.

The bill, which garnered only eight GOP votes Wednesday, was first introduced more than six years ago in response to the 2012 killing of 20 first graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, but failed to win enough support in the Senate and was not ever put forth for a vote in the House.

“This day has been a long time coming,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, who came over from the Senate to witness the historic vote on the House floor.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal also kept an eye on the House proceedings.

“The families of Sandy Hook were in my heart and on my mind today as I watched the House take a historic step toward making America safer,” he said. “It is a clear sign that momentum is on the side of common sense gun violence reform and the gun lobby’s grip on Congress is weakening.”

The gun safety advocates’ victory is expected to be short-lived, however. The bill is unlikely to be considered in the Senate, where Republicans hold a 53-vote majority and 60 votes are needed to advance legislation.

President Donald Trump also issued a veto threat Tuesday for the legislation, which would require FBI background checks of prospective buyers for individual gun sales on the Internet and at gun shows.

“This day has been a long time coming.”

Sen. Chris Murphy, D- Conn.

During debate on the bill Wednesday, several amendments were defeated. But lawmakers approved a Republican amendment that would require the FBI to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, when an undocumented alien attempts to purchase a gun.

Like other supporters of the legislation, Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, said universal background checks have the support of 97 percent of Americans and would keep more guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals.

But he said the legislation is not “a panacea.”

“We need additional legislation to make guns safer, keep weapons that are designed only to kill off the street, and provide better mental health support for Americans,” Himes said.

Rep. Jared Golden, a freshman lawmaker from Maine, and Minnesota’s Rep. Colin Peterson were the only House Democrats to vote against the bill.

While gun control helped a number of Democrats in last year’s midterm elections, the National Rifle Association, which strongly opposed the background check bill, continues to have strong influence on Republicans in Congress.

The NRA says the legislation would lead to a national gun registry, and “make criminals out of law-abiding gun owners for simply loaning a firearm to a friend or some family members.”

Before the vote, Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., called the bill a “partisan show” that would not have prevented the mass shootings in Newtown, Las Vegas, San Bernadino or other places that have been the scene of a gun massacre.

Most of the guns used in recent mass shooting, including the one that killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School, were bought legally.

Sandy Hook Elementary School, which was razed followed the 2012 shooting. From Clinton's ad

Like Newtown shooter Adam Lanza, many of the attackers had criminal histories or mental health problems that did not prevent them from obtaining a  weapon. Even so, gun control advocates promote universal background checks as a first step in preventing gun violence.

During the often passionate debate on the bill, Hudson and other Republicans repeated the NRA argument that it would make criminals out of those who loan guns to family members and friends.

“If you loan your gun to a friend under this bill, and they may be thinking of buying a similar gun to protect themselves, and they go to a range… you may become a felon, subject to a year in jail,” said Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., who is the victim of a shooting. He was severely injured during a shooting at a congressional baseball practice in Virginia in 2017.

However, there are a number of exceptions in the background check bill, including one for a family member giving a firearm as a gift, or lending a gun to someone to practice at a gun range or who is in imminent danger.

The U.S. House plans to vote on a second gun bill on Thursday.

That bill would extend  the FBI’s current three-day deadline to conduct a background check to as many as 20 business days, closing the so-called  “Charleston Loophole.” That loophole allowed white supremacist Dylann Roof, who killed nine African-Americans at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015, to buy a gun despite pending felony drug charges against him.

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Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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7 Comments

  1. “Like Newtown shooter Adam Lanza, many of the attackers had criminal histories or mental health problems that did not prevent them from obtaining a weapon.” For crying out loud! Adam Lanza got his guns by killing his mother and taking her guns!!!

  2. Wait…what??? Background checks? What does Sandy Hook have to do with this? The rifle Lanza used was bought legally at Riverview Guns in South Windsor (now out of business). What background check would have saved him from shooting his own mother and going on a murder spree?

    Gun violence is committed FAR more by criminals than your average American gun owner. There are 300 million legal firearms in the US. There are 100 million illegal ones. If you want to make us safer, go after those unregistered illegal firearms and those criminals that possess them.

  3. As usual the Dems overreach. If they just stuck to a background check without loopholes, all would agree. Nope, they can’t do that. They just can’t help themselves. There is a clause in here that should an illegal alien try to purchase a gun and fail the background check due to a violent criminal history; The Feds are not to be notified so they can remove the violent criminal who is trying to buy a gun. Yet an American Citizen with a concealed pistol permit who has gone through previous background checks is treated the same as a criminal. Also, should an American let his neighbor shoot his/her gun at the range; he/she instantly becomes a felon and is in danger of a $100,000.00 fine and a year in jail.

  4. Background checks are not really the issue here since this bill goes to the Senate to die. The greater meaning lies in the comments of Jim Himes who said “We need additional legislation to make guns safer, keep weapons that
    are designed only to kill off the street, and provide better mental
    health support for Americans,”. Aside from the usual lip service to mental health which is always the first component that is defunded, Himes speaking in his usual deceptive dialect let’s you know right up front that there is no concession from gun owners that will satisfy him. The bar will continually be raised until we are throwing rocks to defend ourselves.

  5. Ah, the panacea of ‘universal gun background checks’. I wonder if studies show their effectiveness…

    “…researchers studied firearm homicide and suicide rates in California before and after the Golden State passed its CBC law. Researchers waited 10 years to study the effects of this law, but in the end, “The study found no net difference between firearm-related homicide rates before and during the 10 years after policy implementation.”

    Not so good. What about this one:

    “A study funded by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research found that comprehensive background check policies in urban areas are correlated, if anything, with an increase in firearm homicides.”

    Third time is the charm, right??

    Yet another study, out of UC Davis, compared firearm homicide and suicide rates in Indiana and Tennessee after each of the two states repealed their comprehensive background check laws (in 1981 and 1994 respectively). After comparing the data from those states to methodically constructed control groups in 11 states with CBC policies in place, the researchers found “no evidence of an association between the repeal of comprehensive background check policies and firearm homicide and suicide rates in Indiana and Tennessee.“

    Oh well. Better luck next time.

  6. OK, let’s try and get this gun show thing straight once and for all. First off, all licensed dealers at these shows (FFL Holders) are required to comply with ALL Federal, State, and local laws in the conduct of their business. As far as the private sales go, we here in CT, have been required to get a clearance from CSP before selling a weapon to another private party. As a former Governor stated, and I’m going to paraphrase a bit here, “I just don’t see two drug dealers in the North End of Hartford standing under a streetlight trying to figure out if their paperwork is in order” EXACTLY Right!

    Now, on to the so called Internet Sales, you are perfectly free to purchase weapons online from dealers and the various auction sites (I do this myself frequently) however after you click on pay or send them a check in the mail etc. The weapon is then sent to another licensed firearms dealer (FFL Holder) in you area. You then need to go to their shop and complete the necessary paperwork BEFORE you take possession of the weapon.

    Going back to the gun shows again, it’s very well known that these shows are literally crawling with ATF agents looking for irregularities so it’s also very unlikely that any private parties would try something sketchy. With that said most States do not have the private sales restrictions like we do so it is possible for it to happen I suppose.

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