House passes bill expanding background checks for gun sales

The House on Tuesday passed a bill requiring background checks to be carried out on nearly every individual who purchases a firearm - marking the Democrats' first victory in tightening the nation’s gun laws since retaking control of the lower chamber of Congress.

The bill, HR 8, passed 240-190 after hours of debate and parliamentary maneuvering that saw Democrats agreeing to add an amendment to the legislation that would alert Immigration and Customs Enforcement if a person in the country illegally tried to purchase a firearm.

Another amendment to the bill, which would have exempted individuals cleared by the Transportation Security Administration’s Precheck Program from greater scrutiny when buying a gun, failed to garner enough votes for inclusion.

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HR 8 expands the scope of federal background checks and requires nearly all purchasers of firearms to undergo a background check – even if they bought it at a gun show, online or in a private transaction. There are some exemptions to the background checks, including gifts to family members and transfers of weapons for hunting, target shooting, and self-defense.

It is the first of two pieces of legislation Democrats are bringing to the House floor this week as part of an effort to tighten gun laws following eight years of Republican control. The other bill, HR 1112, would require gun dealers to wait 10 days to receive answers about a background check.

The House is set to vote on HR 1112 on Thursday.

While a handful of House Republicans have signed up in support of HR 8 – including Rep. Peter King of New York – the vast majority of GOP lawmakers opposed the legislation.

“Frankly HR-8 is taking the fears and concerns of a nation over gun violence and perpetrating a fraud upon them,” Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., said on Tuesday during an event on Capitol Hill. “They are preying upon the very victims they are supposedly trying to help by putting a bill out there that will not help them.

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Collins was one of the most vocal opponents on Wednesday of the bill and attempted to have the bill sent back to committee to have the immigration issue discussed. The move was panned by House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler, D-NY, who called it a “red herring to mix the immigration issues with the gun violence issue.”

While the bill passed through the lower house of Congress, it is likely to meet a quick end once it lands in the Republican-controlled Senate. And even if it does make its way through the Senate, President Trump has already vowed to veto the legislation.

The White House said in a veto message that the bill expanding background checks would impose unreasonable requirements on gun owners and that it could block someone from borrowing a firearm for self-defense or allowing a neighbor to take care of a gun while traveling.

Fox News College Associate Benno Kass and The Associated Press contributed to this report.