'For my son Jordan Davis, I vote aye,' Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA) said, remembering the child she lost to gun violence.
Democrats passed key gun safety bills out of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday night — but only after overcoming 11 hours of delays and obstruction from Republicans.
If either bill is passed by the full House, it would be the first significant gun safety legislation passed by either chamber of Congress in more than a decade.
Yet the GOP tried to stop this progress — even on the eve of the first anniversary of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida. On that tragic day, 17 students and teachers lost their lives in a matter of minutes.
One of the bills would require universal background checks on all gun sales — a move Americans overwhelmingly support because background checks help keep guns out of the hands of criminals and others who should not have them. The other bill would close a loophole in background checks that allowed white supremacist Dylann Roof to get the gun he used to murder nine people at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), who represents Parkland in Congress, said that if the legislation can prevent one person from harming others with a gun, then "it will be something we can be proud of."
"A day before the one-year mark of the Parkland shooting, the House is honoring all victims and survivors of gun violence with action," John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement.
As Deutch and Democrats were trying to make the country safer for children, however, Republicans kicked off the Parkland anniversary trying to obstruct those efforts.
Throughout the day on Wednesday, Republicans tried over and over to water down the universal background check bill with an unending stream of amendments. Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA) expressed frustration that instead of working with Democrats, "Republicans are adding more loopholes, which is shameful."
Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA), who lost her son Jordan Davis to gun violence more than six years ago, refused to back down in the face of Republican opposition. "As a survivor of gun violence myself, I refuse to let my colleagues stand here and devalue the importance that this bill has," she said.
But after about 10 hours of this obstruction, the committee finally had the chance to move the first bill forward, and advanced the second one shortly after that.
"For my son Jordan Davis, I vote aye," McBath said in registering her vote — a powerful moment given that McBath had worked tirelessly as an advocate for gun safety after her son's death, and then ousted an NRA-backed Republican to claim her seat in Congress.
Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) noted that advocates with Moms Demand Action, a gun safety group, spent all day watching the committee work, and then erupted in applause and tears when the bills were approved by the committee.
"House leaders are following through on their promise to act to end our nation's gun violence crisis," Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, said in a statement following the vote. "Requiring background checks on all gun sales is the first step towards creating a safer future for our children."
Universal background check legislation is just one way Democrats will advance the gun safety agenda. Some members have also introduced legislation to make high-capacity magazines illegal.
The November 2018 power shift which put Democrats in charge of the House of Representatives is already dramatically changing how Congress handles gun legislation.
"Despite Republican attempts to put up roadblock after roadblock to derail yesterday's vote on universal background checks, House Democrats made it clear that they have the courage to do what's right to make our communities safer from gun violence by passing H.R. 8 out of the House Judiciary Committee," Robin Lloyd, managing director of the gun safety advocacy group Giffords, told Shareblue Media.
"No longer will we have to rely on the thoughts and prayers of politicians when it comes to addressing gun violence, and we're grateful to the House Democrats for prioritizing this critical public safety issue."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.