House

Eight Republicans side with Dems on background checks for gun sales

Greg Nash
Eight House Republicans voted with Democrats on Wednesday to support legislation that would require universal background checks for gun sales, despite opposition from the gun lobby.
 
Nearly all the Republicans who broke with their party are centrists, including several who represent competitive swing districts.
 
The number of GOP defectors was only slightly higher than the five Republicans who had signed on as co-sponsors to the legislation.
 
Those five are Rep. Pete King (N.Y.), who co-authored the bill with Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), as well as Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Brian Mast (Fla.), Fred Upton (Mich.) and Chris Smith (N.J.).{mosads}
 
But three more Republicans joined them in supporting final passage of the measure Wednesday: Reps. Vern Buchanan (Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.) and Will Hurd (Texas).
 
“Our laws cannot be effective if there are gaping loopholes that allow criminals and deranged individuals to purchase firearms at gun shows or over the Internet without being subject to background checks. Today I voted for HR 8 to close these loopholes – a proposal supported by over 90 percent of gun owners in America, according to respected polling organizations,” Buchanan said in a statement, according to a local ABC affiliate.
 
The legislation would require universal background checks for gun sales, including at gun shows and in private online transactions. Current law only requires licensed firearms dealers to conduct background checks before making a sale.
 
But it does carve out exemptions for certain circumstances, including transfers between family members, use in hunting, and when “necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm,” such as domestic violence.
 
Hurd and Fitzpatrick both represent districts that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. The third House Republican in a Clinton district, Rep. John Katko (N.Y.), did not vote Wednesday.
 
Democrats also plan to target King, Mast and Upton in 2020, while Smith, Buchanan and Diaz-Balart are considered to represent safe GOP seats.
 
Mast won reelection last November by 9 points. He has gone beyond supporting an expansion of the background check to a more stringent gun control measure: an assault weapons ban.
 
Mast, an Army veteran who lost both his legs while serving in Afghanistan, wrote in a New York Times op-ed after last year’s shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., “I cannot support the primary weapon I used to defend our people being used to kill children I swore to defend.”
 
On the other side of the aisle, only two Democrats voted against the universal background checks bill: Reps. Jared Golden (Maine) and Collin Peterson (Minn.).
 
Both represent rural districts that President Trump won in 2016.
 
Golden, a freshman, said he opposed the legislation because it’s similar to a ballot initiative that Maine voters rejected in 2016.
 
“Maine isn’t Chicago, Washington, or New York. For many of my constituents, access to firearms is a necessary part of daily life and we have a tradition of responsible gun ownership,” Golden said in a statement. 
 
“To keep firearms out of the hands of criminal offenders, we need to strictly enforce the background check system already in place and provide it with the resources necessary to work,” he added.
 
The House approved the background check legislation in a vote of 240-190 on Wednesday. Before the final vote, Republicans in the minority won on a procedural vote that added language to the bill requiring U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be notified when immigrants who don’t have legal status attempt to purchase a firearm.
Tags Brian Fitzpatrick Brian Mast Chris Smith Collin Peterson Donald Trump Fred Upton Hillary Clinton John Katko Mario Diaz-Balart Mike Thompson Pete King Vern Buchanan Will Hurd
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