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-BalartOn The Money: Lawmakers strike spending deal | US, China reach limited trade deal ahead of tariff deadline | Lighthizer fails to quell GOP angst over new NAFTA House passes bill that would give legal status to thousands of undocumented farmworkers House passes stopgap as spending talks stall MORE (Fla.), Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickDemocrats bullish on bill to create women's history museum: 'It's an election year' This week: Trump's budget lands with a thud on Capitol Hill House approves pro-union labor bill MORE (Pa.), Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdTrump to attend California fundraiser with Oracle chairman The Hill's Morning Report - Nearing witness vote, GOP rushes to acquit Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Trump defense rests, GOP struggles to bar witnesses MORE (Texas), Pete KingPeter (Pete) KingLawmakers introduce bill taxing e-cigarettes to pay for anti-vaping campaigns Democrat who opposed Trump, Clinton impeachment inquiries faces big test House GOP criticizes impeachment drive as distracting from national security issues MORE (N.Y.), Brian MastBrian Jeffrey MastHouse lawmakers urge adoption of UN report's recommendations on battling anti-Semitism Democrats launch bilingual ad campaign off drug pricing bill A new way to address veteran and military suicides MORE (Fla.), Chris SmithChristopher (Chris) Henry SmithHouse approves pro-union labor bill Pro-union bill draws 2020 battle lines Here's how we're winning the fight against human trafficking MORE (N.J.) and Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Democrats seek to preempt Trump message on health care | E-cigarette executives set for grilling | Dems urge emergency funding for coronavirus Democrats slam GOP on drug prices in bilingual digital ads Lawmakers discuss how to work together in midst of impeachment fight 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 CunninghamWorries grow as moderates split Democratic vote The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders surge triggers Dem angst Rep. Cunningham blasts Sanders: 'South Carolinians don't want socialism' MORE (S.C.), Ben McAdams (Utah), Max RoseMax RoseVulnerable Democrats fret over surging Sanders Rose, former FBI agent pen op-ed about the danger of global white nationalism: 'Terrorism is terrorism' MLB, Congress play hardball in fight over minor leagues MORE (N.Y.), Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillVulnerable Democrats fret over surging Sanders New Jersey Rep. Sherrill endorses Bloomberg Overnight Defense: Dems raise pressure on Esper to block border wall funds | Trump impeachment trial begins in Senate | Day one dominated by fight over rules MORE (N.J.). Elissa SlotkinElissa SlotkinThe Hill's Campaign Report: Buttigieg, Sanders ahead in Iowa debacle Vulnerable House Democrats benefit from fundraising surge amid impeachment Mixed feelings on war power limits: Lawmakers and vet candidates MORE (Mich.) and Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerHouse Democrats launch effort to register minority voters in key districts House passes bills to gain upper hand in race to 5G The biggest political upsets of the decade 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.