Congress

House passes gun legislation with GOP add-on

Chamber passes first standalone gun measure in years

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., has been a lead advocate of the measure to mandate background checks for gun purchases. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democrats on Wednesday succeeded in pushing through the chamber a bill to expand background checks for firearm sales, but not before some procedural gamesmanship from Republicans.

Last year, Congress approved two gun-related measures about background checks and school safety in a spending bill. But Wednesday’s 240-190 vote mostly along party lines was the first time in decades that the House passed a standalone gun control bill.

Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., succeeded in forcing an amendment, in the form of a motion to recommit, that would require U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement be notified when an undocumented immigrant fails a background check when attempting to purchase a firearm. The vote was 220-209.

The bill is a priority for the new Democratic majority in the House, but the Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to take up the measure.

The bill would expand required background checks to all firearm sales, aimed at covering sales at gun shows, online or in other private settings — with some exceptions such as hunting, law enforcement and gifts to family. Currently, only licensed firearms dealers must seek a background check.

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., who introduced the bill, and other Democrats say there is broad public support for expanded background checks that usually are completed within minutes.

Votes for the bill included a handful of Republicans, including Rep. Peter T. King of New York, a co-sponsor who had backed similar legislation in recent years. The House approved an amendment from Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., to clarify that people who are at risk of committing suicide would not be required to run a background check to give their gun to someone else.

The Trump administration already issued a veto warning on the bill, saying burdensome requirements in the bill do not sufficiently protect Second Amendment rights. The White House also criticized the bill for not including exemptions such as giving a gun to a neighbor while on vacation or domestic violence victims who needed to protect themselves.

At the House Judiciary Committee, Republicans heavily criticized the bill as a burden on law-abiding citizens that would do nothing to stop mass shootings.

The House is scheduled to take up another background check bill (HR 1112) Thursday that would extend the time firearms dealers must wait for a response from the background check system before making a sale, among other provisions

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