For the first time in nearly a quarter-century, the House of Representatives passed gun legislation on Wednesday requiring universal background checks on guns sales, including at gun shows, online, and in private transactions. Unfortunately, the measure also passed with an amendment targeting undocumented people, which was championed by Republicans.
That amendment to the bill, titled the “Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019,” requires the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to alert Immigration and Customs Enforcement if an undocumented immigrant attempts to purchase a firearm.
Still, the bill is the first gun violence legislation that Congress has taken up in nearly 25 years, according to Axios. The bill also prohibits a transfer of firearms by people who aren’t licensed dealers, with exceptions for gifts to family, and transfers for the purposes of hunting, target shooting, and self-defense. Despite the bill’s House passage, it’s sure to face fierce Republican opposition in the Senate.
While the bill has been called “bipartisan,” the House passed it largely along party lines by a vote of 240 to 190, with only eight Republicans voting for the final version: Reps. Vern Buchanan, Brian Mast, and Mario Díaz-Balart of Florida; Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania; Will Hurd of Texas; Peter King of New York; Chris Smith of New Jersey; and Fred Upton of Michigan.
House Judiciary Committee Democrats originally rejected language to alert law enforcement if someone, undocumented immigrants included, were to fail a background check. However, just before the vote, Republicans proposed the amendment targeting undocumented immigrants, BuzzFeed News reported.
Despite having enough votes to pass the bill without the eight Republicans, 26 Democrats crossed party lines in favor of adding the amendment. BuzzFeed News reporter Paul McLeod tweeted before the vote that Dems were “scrambling,” apparently having counted their votes wrong, and then deciding whether they were going to pass the bill, anti-immigrant language and all, or vote against their own measure.
After the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly admitted the Republican measure passing was a “surprise,” but characterized it as “incidental,” maintaining that the bill was a “historic victory.”
Yes, despite getting the bill language they wanted to harass undocumented immigrants, Republicans still didn’t back the bill, and duped Democrats into cracking egg on their own faces. All told, Politico characterized the maneuver as an “embarrassing blow” to the Democrats, one that left Republicans “ecstatic.” Leave it to them (and complacent moderate Dems) to muck this up.
A second bill, which expands the time limit firearms dealers must wait for background checks to be processed to 10 days, is expected to be taken up tomorrow, NPR reported.