House overcomes GOP opposition to pass second gun safety bill in a week


Before the vote, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) gave a powerful, heart-wrenching speech in support of gun safety and closing the 'Charleston loophole.'

For the second time this week, the House of Representatives overcame Republican opposition to pass gun safety legislation. After passing a bill mandating universal background checks for gun sales on Wednesday, the House voted 228-198 on Thursday to pass the Enhanced Background Checks Act, which would close the so-called "Charleston loophole."

The loophole was named after the 2015 mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, which left nine people dead. The gunman had a criminal record which should have prevented him from purchasing the weapon — but he was able to so because his background check took longer than three days to complete.

Under current law, gun dealers can move ahead with a gun sale after three days even if the background check isn't complete. While most background checks for guns take less than three days, it can sometimes take longer. The bill passed by the House would expand the mandatory window for concluding background checks to 10 days.

Moments before the vote, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) gave a deeply personal speech about the importance of this kind of gun safety legislation.

Dingell spoke about her childhood with a father who was mentally ill and owned a gun, and the terror it caused her family.

"I had to hide in that closet with my siblings wondering if we would live or die," she said. "One night, I kept my father from killing my mother. He shouldn't have had a gun!"

She said the additional time required by the legislation "will help us stop more massacres, such as the one in Charleston. And it may prevent another child or family going through what I did as a child."

Dingell ended her speech asking her colleagues to reject a Republican amendment to weaken the bill, and urged the full House to vote for the legislation.

The bill passed largely along party lines, with 225 Democrats supporting it, joined by only three Republicans. The remaining 191 Republicans who voted opposed the bill.

Gun safety groups cheered the bill's passage.

John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, praised the bill as "common-sense legislation" which will "keep thousands of guns away from people who shouldn't have them."

The bill is one way "we can honor the victims and survivors of the Charleston church shooting with action," Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, said in a statement. "We know that the Charleston loophole is deadly. I'm grateful to House leaders for their work to address it."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.