Gun Control: The House Just Passed New Legislation

Matt Lillywhite

The House of Representatives passed firearms laws that would extend background checks on all private gun purchases, marking the first major step toward gun reform by Congress. Democrats have retained the White House and majorities in both houses of Congress.

The bill was approved by the House in two separate votes. The first vote on H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021, passed 227-203, extending background checks to all weapons purchases and exchanges in the country. It's worth noting that gun purchases and transactions by unlicensed and private dealers are currently excluded from background checks.

Eight Republicans voted in favour of the measure, and one Democrat voted against it. Vern Buchanan of Florida, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Maria Salazar of Florida, Andrew Garbarino of New York, Chris Smith of New Jersey, Fred Upton of Michigan, Carlos Gimenez of Florida, and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois were among the eight Republicans who opposed the bill. Rep. Jared Golden, the only Democrat, voted against the Covid-19 package as well. Reps. Brian Mast and Mario Diaz-Balart, both Republicans, voted for it in 2019 but did not favor it this time.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that the Bipartisan Background Checks Act would be brought to the Senate floor for a vote, and that talks about how to deal with Republicans would follow.

"We'll have the good sense to have had this bill twice and in the past when they send it over to us last time, it went into Mitch McConnell's legislative graveyard. The legislative graveyard is over. H.R. 8 will be on the floor of the Senate and we will see where everybody stands," Schumer said. "No more thoughts and prayers. A vote is what we need. A vote."

Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, a Democrat, said there have been "ongoing conversations" to get Republicans to sign on to the bill in order for Democrats to reach the required 60 votes.

"There have been ongoing conversations off and on all the way through. And, you know, I think Sen. Schumer was clear that the initial vote would be on H.R. 8, and then we would talk about what might be advisable and necessary to pass it," He told reporters. Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, expressed optimism that some form of gun control legislation could pass the Senate.

"I just think we're living in such a different world than 2013. So much has changed. The politics around us are fundamentally different.... I just think that you can't compare 2013 to 2021. I think there are a lot of Republican senators that are thinking about voting for a proposal allows them to get right on this issue," Murphy, who represents Connecticut, where the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred, said. "And we will see where people stand. And maybe we'll get the votes and if we don't we'll come together and figure out how we're going to get this done because we have to get it done."

President Joe Biden has stated that gun safety reform is a "priority" for him, according to the White House. At a White House briefing last month, press secretary Jen Psaki said that the President has pushed for gun control policies.throughout his lifetime, noting that the President is not scared of standing up to the NRA. "It's a priority to him on a personal level", she said.

The executive director of Brady PAC, the sister agency of the Brady Campaign to curb gun abuse, Brian Lemek, thanked the House representatives who voted in favor of the bill. "Members of the House of Representatives made it clear today, with bipartisan support, where they stand on preventing a countless number of deaths from happening again in the future. Between now and 2022, Brady PAC will make sure every voter knows and doesn't forget who did and did not vote for this lifesaving piece of legislation that 90% of Americans support," he noted.

Photo via The White House

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