Despite a heartbreaking series of mass shootings in recent years, Congress didn’t even hold a hearing on gun violence at any point this decade – at least until this month, when the new House Democratic majority tackled the issue. Of course, for reform advocates, a legislative hearing isn’t nearly enough.
It led to this afternoon’s breakthrough developments on the House floor. The Washington Post reported:
The House on Wednesday passed a bill expanding federal background checks for gun purchases and transfers, the first major new firearm restrictions to advance in a generation.
The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, which passed 240-190 with mostly Democratic votes, is unlikely to be considered in the Senate, where Republicans hold a 53-seat majority.
The bill would require background checks on all gun purchases, including at gun shows. This was the first time either chamber of Congress has passed a bill intended to reduce gun violence since 1994 – a quarter of a century ago.
There was some procedural drama this afternoon, after Republicans unexpectedly succeeded in adding a provision related to ICE and gun purchases from undocumented immigrants, but the legislation nevertheless passed with eight GOP votes. It heads to the Republican-led Senate, which will likely ignore the legislation, despite its popularity and its potential benefits.
But let’s say for the sake of conversation that the Senate were to take up the bill, and let’s also say that it were to pass and go to the White House. Didn’t Donald Trump endorse expanded background checks for gun purchases? Isn’t this the same policy the president said he’d support?
Actually, yes. In fact, it was a year ago this week that Trump published a tweet that read, “Whether we are Republican or Democrat, we must now focus on strengthening Background Checks!” The president soon after vowed, “Very strong improvement and strengthening of background checks will be fully backed by White House.”
In the wake of the Parkland shooting, Trump added that he would “be strongly pushing Comprehensive Background Checks…. Congress is in a mood to finally do something on this issue - I hope!
Just 12 months later, that commitment has disappeared: Trump issued a veto threat against the bipartisan legislation this week.