The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill on Wednesday requiring background checks on every gun purchase, including at gun shows and on the internet. This is the first major gun reform bill to pass in a generation.
The new Democratic House majority, the renewed energy and enthusiasm from youth activists after the Parkland shooting, and the organizing of groups like Moms Demand Action helped contribute to the historic moment. With the vast majority of the American public — around 90% — in support of universal background checks, many feel that it's been a long time coming for this common-sense legislation.
"When it looked like the gun lobby would forever silence any debate on stronger gun laws, courage shone through," tweeted Gabrielle Giffords, the anti-gun violence advocate and former representative from Arizona who famously survived a gun assassination attempt in 2011. "Courage embodied by relentless advocates and resilient survivors, and exemplified by leaders who ran for office and won on the promise to fight for a safer future." She added that unfortunately we've waited too long for this progress and many lives have already been lost.
"Today's victory in the House is a critical first step toward stronger gun laws that will save lives. The responsibility to take the next step now shifts to the Senate," she wrote. The bill faces an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Senate, and President Trump has promised to veto it.
The bill has been an especially long time coming for Georgia Rep. Lucy McBath, whose 17-year-old son Jordan was gunned down, unarmed, for playing rap music in his car in 2012. "After my son's death, I dedicated my entire life to advocating for common-sense gun safety solutions, but it was the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that finally motivated me to join this legislative body," McBath said in her testimony on Wednesday. "The overwhelming bipartisan support for universal background checks symbolizes the power of advocacy and the incredible power of the survivors, family members, and students who have shared their stories. ... H.R. 8 will ensure that mothers and fathers have one less reason to worry."
Over 100 Moms Demand Action volunteers showed up in D.C. to demonstrate their support for the bill. "It was amazing to look up to the gallery and see a sea of moms in red!" tweeted Illinois Rep. Lauren Underwood, another freshman member of Congress.
Another background checks measure, on which the House is voting Thursday, would close the so-called Charleston loophole, which allows someone to buy a firearm if the background check is not completed within three days. It's this loophole that allowed white supremacist Dylann Roof to buy the weapon with which he murdered nine people at a church in Charleston, SC, in 2015.