U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath stuck to a familiar and deeply personal issue on Tuesday as she rolled out her first piece of legislation since being sworn into Congress.
The Marietta Democrat signed on as an original co-sponsor of a bill that would expand background checks for the sale and transfer of firearms.
The legislation fulfills a central campaign promise for McBath, who became a national gun control advocate after her teenage son Jordan Davis was fatally shot in a racially-motivated dispute in 2012. But the proposal was quickly panned by Republicans, who could use it as fodder as they seek to retake her 6th District House seat in 2020.
“Too often sales without background checks, including unlicensed sales and online sales, have allowed guns to end up in the hands of violent criminals,” said McBath, flanked by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and several Democratic lawmakers and gun control advocates at a Capitol Hill press conference. “By closing these loopholes and expanding background checks, we will make our communities safer.”
After initially planning a statehouse run, McBath switched races last spring, challenging then- Congresswoman Karen Handel, R-Roswell, shortly after a gunman killed 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
“Either you are completely about the business of saving people’s lives or you’re not,” McBath said in an interview last spring. “There’s no in between.”
Gun control groups quickly endorsed McBath, including her former employers Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Several of those groups aided her campaign with millions in outside spending, much of it going toward advertising aimed at bolstering McBath’s name identification and attacking Handel.
Many of McBath’s former colleagues from Everytown and Moms Demand Action attended Tuesday’s press conference and swarmed the new congresswoman following the event, as did several of the Parkland students.
McBath is one of five Democrats and five Republicans to be listed as original cosponsors of the legislation, which the chamber’s Democratic leaders have vowed to make a priority in the months ahead. It was given the low bill number H.R. 8 to symbolize the issue’s importance to the party, as well as the eighth anniversary of the Tucson shooting that killed six and nearly claimed Giffords’ life.
While Democrats have touted the public popularity of expanded background checks, the legislation is likely to be stonewalled in the GOP-controlled Senate. President Donald Trump has also vowed to safeguard Second Amendment rights, although his administration did move to ban bump stocks last month.
Top Republicans swiftly rejected the proposal.
“While I share my colleagues’ conviction that Congress must find effective ways to prevent violence, promote public safety, and protect life, today’s bill is not a solution on any of these fronts,” said U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee. “Recent shootings reflect failures not of existing policy—background checks are already in place and working across the board—but failures in its implementation.”
The influential gun rights group the National Rifle Association previously voiced opposition to similar background check legislation.
“So-called universal background checks will never be universal because criminals do not comply with the law,” an NRA spokeswoman told the Associated Press.
McBath has also advocated for raising the minimum age for purchasing a gun to 21, overturning concealed carry reciprocity measures and enacting “red flag” laws, which permit families and police to petition courts to take firearms away from people who pose a danger to themselves or others.
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