House passes bill expanding background checks on gun sales

The House approved major background checks legislation championed by Democrats on Wednesday, but not before House Republicans secured a significant victory by amending the bill at the last second. 

The 240-190 vote marks the most significant gun control vote in years. It would require all gun sellers to conduct background checks on firearm buyers. 

The successful vote follows the failure by the Senate in 2013 to pass similar bipartisan legislation to expand the federal background check system.

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The measure was passed in a largely party-line vote, with eight GOP lawmakers voting with Democrats. Two Democrats voted against the measure: Reps. Collin Peterson (Minn.) and Jared Golden (Maine). 

The GOP lawmakers who voted for the measure were Reps. Vern BuchananVernon Gale BuchananMORE (Fla.), Mario Diaz-BalartMario Rafael Diaz-BalartHouse passes stopgap as spending talks stall Bipartisan group reveals agricultural worker immigration bill GOP lawmakers offer new election security measure MORE (Fla.), Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickOvernight Defense: Trump clashes with Macron at NATO summit | House impeachment report says Trump abused power | Top Dem scolds military leaders on Trump intervention in war crimes cases Billboards calling on House Republicans to 'do their job' follow members home for Thanksgiving Mark Ruffalo brings fight against 'forever chemicals' to Capitol Hill MORE (Pa.), Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdCNN's Bianna Golodryga: 'Rumblings' from Democrats on censuring Trump instead of impeachment Republicans preview impeachment defense strategy Davis: Congressman Will Hurd, If not now, when? MORE (Texas), Pete KingPeter (Pete) KingHouse GOP criticizes impeachment drive as distracting from national security issues Retiring lawmaker's 2018 opponent won't run for seat, citing 'difficult' pregnancies House panel advances flavored e-cigarette ban MORE (N.Y.), Brian MastBrian Jeffrey MastA new way to address veteran and military suicides VA might not be able to end veteran homelessness, but we shouldn't stop trying GOP lawmaker mistakenly wishes Navy happy birthday with photo of Russian ship MORE (Fla.), Chris SmithChristopher (Chris) Henry SmithGOP lawmaker to offer bill to create universal charitable deduction on 'Giving Tuesday' China threatens 'strong countermeasures' if Congress passes Hong Kong legislation This week: Congress returns to chaotic Washington MORE (N.J.) and Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonShimkus says he's reconsidering retirement Shimkus says he's been asked to reconsider retirement Trump urges GOP to fight for him MORE (Mich.). Many of them represent swing districts. 

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who has been a vocal advocate for gun control, appeared in the House chamber for the vote. The measure is unlikely to become law, as it is not expected to receive a vote in the GOP Senate. 

Before the final vote, however, Republicans in the minority won on a procedural vote that forced Democrats to rewrite their bill. Such motions to recommit are rarely successful in the House, but this is the second such victory by the GOP since Democrats regained the majority in January.

The motion to recommit added language to the bill that requires U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to be notified when immigrants who do not have legal status attempt to purchase a firearm. 

The last-minute change came as a major win for Republicans, who saw identical language shot down in the House Rules Committee. 

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The victory was an embarrassment for Democrats, who were unable to whip enough votes to defeat the measure. Twenty-six Democrats backed it, including a number of centrists who won election last fall in swing districts, such as Reps. Anthony Brindisi (N.Y.), Angie Craig (Minn.), Joe CunninghamJoseph CunninghamConservative group unveils million ad campaign against Trump impeachment Club for Growth extends advertising against House Dems over impeachment Progressive freshmen jump into leadership PAC fundraising MORE (S.C.), Ben McAdams (Utah), Max RoseMax RoseHillicon Valley: Google to limit political ad targeting | Senators scrutinize self-driving car safety | Trump to 'look at' Apple tariff exemption | Progressive lawmakers call for surveillance reforms | House panel advances telecom bills Democratic lawmaker introduces bill to tackle online terrorist activity Hillicon Valley: Critics press feds to block Google, Fitbit deal | Twitter takes down Hamas, Hezbollah-linked accounts | TikTok looks to join online anti-terrorism effort | Apple pledges .5B to affordable housing MORE (N.Y.), Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillHillicon Valley: Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract in court | State antitrust investigation into Google expands | Intel agencies no longer collecting location data without warrant Bipartisan bill to secure election tech advances to House floor Our commitment to veterans can help us lead for all Americans MORE (N.J.). Elissa SlotkinElissa SlotkinIran building hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq: report Democrats debate scope of impeachment charges Democrats hit gas on impeachment MORE (Mich.) and Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerPro-Trump group targets Democrats with 'End the Witch Hunt' campaign Club for Growth extends advertising against House Dems over impeachment NRCC campaign prank leads to suspicious package investigation MORE (Va.).

The underlying bill was spearheaded by Reps. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and King and had a total of five Republican co-sponsors.

The legislation aims to expand requirements for background checks on private sales including those made at gun shows, on the internet or through classified ads.

Under current law, only licensed gun dealers are mandated to conduct background checks on those looking to purchase a gun.

 “There's no reason to continue to make it easy for people who are legally prohibited from possessing firearms to acquire them,” House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said during debate on the floor ahead of the vote.

“By circumventing the background check process. H.R. 8 would close this dangerous loophole and save many, many lives.”

But critics say it fails to address the problems that have led to mass shootings in the past, arguing it makes it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to exercise their constitutional rights. 

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) — who sustained life-threatening injuries after being shot at Republicans’ congressional baseball practice in 2017 — argued it would make it more difficult for gun owners to provide assistance to those looking to defend themselves in potentially dangerous situations.

“For example, to loan a gun to a friend who is a victim of domestic violence who's asking for help to borrow a gun to defend themselves, you can go to federal prison now for a practice as basic as that,” he told The Hill.

Under the new House legislation passed on Wednesday, exemptions would be made for transfers for hunting purposes, target shooting and self-defense, as well as gifts between family members.

Top Republicans advocated for legislation spearheaded by Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, aimed at strengthening law enforcement's response to potential threats and cutting down on illegal street sales of firearms.

“The sad part about it is they claim this is the answer and the first step. The actuality is it's at best a side step and may actually be a step backward and will not do what is being claimed to do,” Collins said of the Democrat-backed bill on the floor.  

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House Democrats have made strengthening gun regulations a top priority since taking back control of the lower chamber.

The House is expected to take up a second gun-related bill Thursday, which would lengthen the review period on gun sales. It is also expected to pass along party lines and then face tough odds in the Senate.

This story was updated at 6:20 p.m.