The House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday that would require a background check for every gun sale and transfer within the country — a measure supported by the vast majority of Americans from all political backgrounds.
The bill passed by a vote of 227-203, mostly along party lines, with Democrats largely in support of the proposal and Republicans mostly against it. Only eight Republicans voted for it.
The legislation seeks to close loopholes that allow the purchase of guns with a background check. About one-in-five gun owners in the U.S. did not complete a background check before their most recent gun purchase, according to one estimate.
Several Democratic lawmakers praised the passage of the bill, describing it as necessary to prevent future violent acts. Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-California) cited the example of Dylann Roof, who six years ago shot and killed members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in a tweet about the bill’s passage.
“In 2015, the #CharlestonLoophole allowed a man with a criminal background to buy a gun even though a background check wasn’t completed. He used that gun to murder 9 people in Charleston,” Barragán wrote. “We must take action and close this loophole now.”
Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-New York), a former educator, explained the significance of the bill for school safety.
“My first year in public education was the same year as the Columbine shooting,” Bowman noted. “I worked in public schools as we saw the shooting at Virginia Tech. At Sandy Hook. And at Parkland. All gun sales should come with a background check.”
While passage in the Democratic-led House came somewhat easily, the bill has a tougher road ahead in the Senate, where Democrats are likely to support the bill, but Republicans could use the filibuster to prevent its passage. At least 10 Republican senators would need to support the bill to break the procedural block.
Still, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) remained hopeful that the bill could pass both chambers of Congress.
“Maybe we’ll get the votes. And if we don’t, we’ll come together as a caucus and figure it out how we are going to get this done,” Schumer said on Thursday. “But we have to get it done.”
In spite of expected obstruction in the Senate, a majority of Americans support the expansion of background checks. When asked in a recent Morning Consult poll about whether every firearm sale should have such checks, 84 percent of respondents said they backed such measures, while only 11 percent said they disagreed with it.
The idea transcends partisan thinking. Republican respondents expressed support for universal background checks in the poll, with 77 percent approval.
The issue of gun safety is one of grave importance to most Americans. According to an Economist/YouGov poll released this week, 76 percent of respondents said they felt the issue was “very” or “somewhat” important, while less than a quarter of respondents (24 percent) said otherwise.