The House passed gun legislation that would expand background checks on all commercial gun sales, marking the first congressional move on significant gun control since Democrats won the White House and the majority in both chambers of Congress.
The House passed the legislation in two separate votes.
The first vote on H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021, passed 227-203 and would expand background checks for all firearm sales or transfers in the country. Currently, background checks are not required for gun sales and transfers by unlicensed and private sellers.
And eight Republicans supported the legislation and one Democrat voting against it.
The eight Republicans were 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.
And the lone Democrat was Rep. Jared Golden, who also voted against the Covid-19 package.
Two Republicans voted for it in 2019 but did not support it this time around — Reps. Brian Mast and Mario Diaz-Balart.
Separate legislation, H.R. 1446, introduced by Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina and called the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021, passed 218-210 would close what’s known as the “Charleston Loophole,” which allows some licensed gun sales to go through before a required background check is done. Using that loophole, Dylann Roof was able to legally purchase a firearm to kill nine people at a historically Black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.
Two Democrats opposed the legislation — Reps. Ron Kind of Wisconsin and Golden.
And the Republicans who voted for this legislation were Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Chris Smith of New Jersey.
“These people who were practicing their faith, their faith that taught them to welcome in a stranger, a stranger came to their door and they welcomed into their Bible study, he sat with them for an hour,” Clyburn said on the House floor Wednesday. “The stranger that they had welcomed in had opened fire and killed nine of them, one of who was the pastor, a former intern of mine.”
“This law would have prevented that gentleman from getting a gun,” Clyburn added.
The bills are expected to pass the House but will face a steep uphill climb in the Senate as Democrats hold a slim 50-50 majority and would need significant Republican support to overcome a legislative filibuster. Still, the legislation remains a priority for the Biden administration.
But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer committed to putting the Bipartisan Background Checks Act on the Senate floor for a vote and suggested having discussions after on how to work with Republicans.
“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.”
When asked what will need to happen for Senate Democrats to get to 60 votes on the legislation, Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said there have been “ongoing conversations” to get Republicans to sign on.
“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.
And Sen. Chris Murphy, also a Connecticut Democrat, expressed hope some sort of gun control legislation could pass in 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 said, who represents Connecticut where the Sandy Hook shooting took place.
He added: “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.”
The White House has also said gun control legislation is a “priority” for President Joe Biden.
“I will say that the President is somebody, throughout his career, who has advocated for smart gun — smart gun safety measures,” press secretary Jen Psaki said during a White House briefing last month, adding that the President is “not afraid of standing up to the NRA — he’s done it multiple times and won — on background checks and a range of issues. And it is a priority to him on a personal level.”
Brian Lemek — the executive director of Brady PAC, the sister organization of gun violence prevention group the Brady Campaign — praised the House members who supported the legislation.
“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 said.
This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Thursday.