House Passes Two Major Gun Control Laws for First Time in Almost 25 Years

By Shani Saxon Feb 28, 2019

This week, the United States House of Representatives passed two bills that are considered to be the most sweeping gun measures to move through the house in nearly 25 years. On Wednesday (February 27), lawmakers voted 240-to-190 in favor of the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, which requires "background checks for all gun purchasers, including those at gun shows and on the internet," The New York Times reports.

On Thursday (February 28), the House voted 228-198 to approve a background check bill called the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019, which would "extend the number of days government authorities have to complete a background check before a gun sale," according to Reuters. Officials say this loophole it closes allowed Dylann Roof to buy the gun he used to kill nine people inside a Charleston church in 2015. 

Both bills represent a major move on the part of the Democrats to show their unity around combating gun violence. While this is a huge victory for the Democrat-controlled House, the bills will likely face opposition from the Republican-controlled Senate and the White House. In fact, Republicans managed to temper the Democratic victory on Wednesday when they added a provision to the first bill that "would require the FBI to alert Immigration and Customs Enforcement if an undocumented immigrant tried to obtain a firearm," The Times reports. 

According to Reuters, the White House said on Monday (February 25) that President Donald Trump will be advised to veto both bills if they make it to his desk because "the first one would impose ‘burdensome requirements’ and the second ‘burdensome delays.’"

As Colorlines has previously reported, gun violence in the United States is a human rights crisis that is exceptionally painful for communities of color, with Black and Latinx people disproportionately impacted by firearm homicides. 

"The U.S. government is prioritizing gun ownership over basic human rights. While many solutions have been offered, there has been a stunning lack of political will to save lives," Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said in a statement last fall. "Despite the huge number of guns in circulation and the sheer numbers of people killed by guns each year, there is a shocking lack of federal regulations that could save thousands."

Representative Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), who leads the congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, spoke to The Times about his party’s major win. "Finally, we have done more than thoughts and prayers. Finally, we have taken a vote to expand background checks and help save lives," Thompson said. "For six long years, we worked on this issue, and the previous majority would not even let us have a hearing, let alone a vote to expand background checks. Today is a new day, and the show of support on both sides of the aisle for this important legislation is humbling."