WASHINGTON — The Democrat-controlled House on Wednesday approved a measure requiring federal background checks for all firearms sales and transfers, the first major gun control bill considered by Congress in nearly 25 years.
Democrats called the 240-190 vote a major step to begin to address an epidemic of gun violence.
Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, was among the 26 Democrats who supported a successful Republican amendment to the legislation that would require notification of federal immigration authorities when someone in the country illegally tries to buy a firearm.
Axne then voted for the bill itself.
On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, and all three GOP House members from Nebraska opposed the bill.
Rep. Don Bacon said the legislation would make it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to protect themselves.
“I cannot vote for a bill that has no proven ability to prevent a criminal’s access to guns, especially when it comes at the expense of the freedoms enjoyed by Americans well within their Second Amendment rights,” Bacon said in a press release. “Criminals do not follow our laws to begin with, and this bill makes compliance increasingly burdensome for responsible firearm owners trying to follow existing gun laws.”
While the legislation passed the House easily, it’s unlikely to gain traction in the GOP-controlled Senate.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told reporters that he’s willing to consider any legislation that doesn’t violate the Second Amendment and cited a bill that would expand the U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center. But he also said that any gun-related bill is likely to get bogged down in fights between Senate Democrats and Republicans over amendments.
The bill also faces a likely veto. President Donald Trump said the bill would impose unreasonable requirements on gun owners.
The White House said in a veto message that the bill could block someone from borrowing a firearm for self-defense or allowing a neighbor to take care of a gun while the owner is traveling. Democrats called those arguments misleading and said the bill includes exceptions allowing temporary transfers to prevent imminent harm or for use at a target range.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., who was gravely wounded in a 2017 shooting at a congressional baseball practice, said stricter background checks would not have prevented his shooting or other tragedies.
“What it would do is make criminals out of law-abiding citizens,” Scalise said.
World-Herald staff writer Joseph Morton contributed to this report.