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.

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-BalartOvernight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record House passes amendment to block funding for transgender troops ban House passes bill to protect 'Dreamers' MORE (Fla.), Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickThe four House Democrats who voted against the border funding bill Overnight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record Addressing climate change is a win for Republicans — why not embrace it? MORE (Pa.), Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdThe four House Democrats who voted against the border funding bill Overnight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record Senate panel advances bill to protect government devices against cyber threats MORE (Texas), Pete KingPeter (Pete) Thomas KingLawmakers offer bill to boost Alzheimer's funding Hillicon Valley: Facebook unveils new cryptocurrency | Waters wants company to halt plans | Democrats look to force votes on election security | Advertisers partner with tech giants on 'digital safety' | House GOP unveils cyber agenda House Homeland Security Republicans to introduce slew of cybersecurity bills MORE (N.Y.), Brian MastBrian Jeffrey MastGOP launches anti-BDS discharge petition Conserving tiny forage fish, the heroes of our shared ocean ecosystem Conservation remains a core conservative principle MORE (Fla.), Chris SmithChristopher (Chris) Henry SmithLawmakers sound alarm over violence in Sudan The four House Democrats who voted against the border funding bill New Jersey governor signs rideshare safety law in honor of murdered college student MORE (N.J.) and Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonHouse passes bill to protect 'Dreamers' Thirty-four GOP members buck Trump on disaster bill Overnight Health Care: Lawmakers get deal to advance long-stalled drug pricing bill | House votes to condemn Trump's anti-ObamaCare push | Eight House Republicans join with Dems | Trump officials approve Medicaid expansion in Maine 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. 

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 CunninghamTime for Congress to shut the door on President Trump's radical offshore drilling plan Overnight Energy: Trump proposal would nix agency reviews of long-term climate impacts | Greens rip decision | House votes to block offshore drilling for one year House votes to block US offshore drilling for one year MORE (S.C.), Ben McAdams (Utah), Max RoseMax RoseCongress needs to continue fighting the opioid epidemic Hillicon Valley: Investigation finds federal agencies failed to address cyber vulnerabilities | Officials crack down on illegal robocallers | Warren offers plan to secure elections | Senators grill Google exec on 'persuasive technology' Artificial intelligence can't solve online extremism issue, experts tell House panel MORE (N.Y.), Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillCongress needs to continue fighting the opioid epidemic Bipartisan House committee members agree on cyber threats to elections, if not how to address it Blue Dogs look to move forward on infrastructure project MORE (N.J.). Elissa SlotkinElissa SlotkinKlobuchar, Warner introduce bill to limit foreign involvement in US political ads Bipartisan House duo unveils amendment to block Iran strike without Congress's approval Chaos within the EPA exposes Americans to toxins like asbestos MORE (Mich.) and Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerGOP hopes dim on reclaiming House Second ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators Overnight Defense: Trump doubles down on claim Iran attacked tankers | Iran calls accusations 'alarming' | Top nuke official quietly left Pentagon | Pelosi vows Congress will block Saudi arms sale 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.  

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.