Acting for the first time in almost 25 years on major gun control legislation, the House on Wednesday afternoon approved a plan to expand background checks on gun sales to include firearms purchased outside of licensed gun dealers, moving to place additional requirements on most private sales between individuals and sales over the internet, as Republican critics argued the effort would have no impact on mass shootings.
"It is a long overdue, common sense action to end the epidemic of gun violence in America," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
"The overwhelming bipartisan support for universal background checks symbolizes the power of advocacy," said Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA), who got into politics in the aftermath of the shooting death of her son Jordan Davis.
The vote was 240 to 190, as eight Republicans broke ranks with GOP leaders to vote for the bill, which drew stern opposition from the National Rifle Association and other strong supporters of gun rights in the Congress, while two Democrats opposed the plan.
GOP lawmakers said Democrats had come up with a plan that wouldn't work, arguing these extra checks would not have stopped an array of high profile mass shootings.
"The shooter at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland passed a background check," said Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL). "The shooter at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando passed a background check."
"It makes no sense to have a background check system if that background check system doesn't work," said Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA).
“We have heard that we have to do something - basically, even if it won’t work,” said Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA).
But those arguments went nowhere with Democrats, who argued that GOP inaction - featuring the repeated expression of 'thoughts and prayers' - wasn't stopping gun violence.
"Democrats are taking action today – not another moment of silence," said House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD).
"The time to act is now," said Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM).
"One life lost to gun violence is one too many," argued Rep. Don McEachin (D-VA).
"There is no question, we need to address the epidemic of gun violence in our country. We cannot sit idly by," said Rep. Joe Negeuse (D-CO).
While the bill has made it through the House, it faces a difficult future in the Senate, where Republicans have no plans to bring the measure up for a vote.
It's still possible that Senate Democrats could try to force a vote on it at some point in coming months, but backers certainly do not have 60 votes to make that happen.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism. AJC.com. Atlanta. News. Now.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.
With the largest team in the state, the AJC reports what’s really going on with your tax dollars and your elected officials. Subscribe today. Visit the AJC's Georgia Navigator for the latest in Georgia politics.
Your subscription to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism. Visit the AJC's Georgia Navigator for the latest in Georgia politics.