The fight for stricter gun reform has never been more relevant than today, and while activists across the nation are pushing for change, little has been done. Well, as of Feb. 27, it looks like Congress has taken a positive step to end gun violence, and believe it or not it's come from both sides. What's in H.R. 8 and H.R. 1112 you may ask? They're all about making sure firearms don't fall into the wrong hands.
On Wednesday, Feb. 27, House of Representatives passed H.R. 8, also known as the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019. The bill was introduced on Jan. 8 and passed the House with a vote of 240-190, largely on party lines. This measure is the largest step towards gun control in the United States in nearly 25 years, according to NBC News, because it expands federal background checks for gun purchases to include all sales — closing loopholes that would allow private sales of guns, or sales at gun shows, without a background check. The bill also includes an amendment, introduced by Republicans, that requires gun sellers to notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when an undocumented immigrant attempts to buy a gun.
This act is already a huge step towards gun reform in America, but it's not the only bill that's been passed. On Thursday, Feb. 28, the House passed a second bill, H.R. 1112, which extends the number of days government authorities have to complete federal background checks for those attempting to purchase firearms, and ends a rule allowing the sale to be completed if the check isn't done in time. The bill was a reaction to the Charleston shooting, in which a man opened fire and killed nine Black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. The bill was passed by the House with a 228-198 vote in favor — again, mostly along party lines.
The narrow vote doesn't bode well for its future. Despite the progress, the bills are unlikely to be approved by the Republican-controlled Senate, and would likely be vetoed by President Donald Trump as well.
In a Feb 28 statement shared with Elite Daily, John Feinblatt, president of gun safety advocacy group Everytown For Gun Safety, praised the passage of the bills.
America’s current background check system is like having two types of security lines at the airport: one for people who are willing to be screened, and one you can waltz right through carrying whatever you want. We applaud the House for moving so quickly, and we urge representatives on both sides of the aisle to take a stand for common sense by requiring background checks on all gun sales.
The National Rifle Association (NRA), in turn, denounced the House's passage of H.R. 1112. Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRA, said in a statement,
The anti-gun politicians in the House of Representatives continue to employ the shameful tactic of exploiting tragedies to market gun control that won’t prevent criminals from committing murder. It’s a sham and the Charleston Loophole bill is the perfect example of their dishonesty.
The conversation surrounding gun reform reached a peak in 2018, when 17 people were killed on Feb. 14, 2018 by an armed gunman who opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. It was just another in a series of troubling mass shootings in the span of a few years, following the Las Vegas shooting in October 2017, which killed 58, and the Pulse nightclub shooting in June 2016, which killed 49. And of course, that doesn't include the thousands of other gun deaths not from mass shootings. According to a November 2018 article from Business Insider, there had been a total of 307 mass shootings in 2018 alone, nearly as many shootings as days that year.
These tragedies left a lasting mark in the United States, but also spearheaded a bigger conversation. Following the Parkland, Florida shooting, students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas organized March For Our Lives, a rally that promoted ending gun violence and called for legislators to make change. The event took place on March 24, 2018, and stretched across the entire United States with sister marches occurring in various cities.
H.R. 8 and H.R. 1112 might have passed in record time within the House, but now it's heading to the Senate. We'll have to wait and see what unfolds.