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News and notes on guns in America

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Daily Bulletin: House Republicans Try to Poison Gun Background Check Bill, With ICE

Good morning, Bulletin readers. For the first time in a generation, the House of Representatives passed a major gun safety bill with bipartisan support. We have a closer look at what’s in that bill, who voted for it, and what happens next, below.

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The House passed a major gun safety bill for the first time in decades. The legislation would expand background checks to nearly all sales, with exceptions for gifts to family members, loans for hobbyists, and weapons transfers in moments of self-defense. 

  • Eight Republicans voted for the bill. Three of them had A ratings from the NRA, six came from districts that voted for Trump in 2016, and at least four came from regions that experienced a mass shooting within the past year. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican from Pennsylvania who was endorsed by gun violence prevention groups during his election last year, was one of the bill’s five Republican co-sponsors. 
  • Two Democrats voted against it. Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Rep. Jared Golden of Maine voted “no” on the legislation. 
  • But one NRA-backed Democrat voted “yes.” In a statement, Sanford Bishop, a Georgia Congressman, called the bill “common sense” and cited overwhelming public support for background checks, including among gun owners. Bishop has received nearly $50K in all-time NRA direct contributions and had an A rating from the gun group as recently as the 2018 midterms. 

Republicans amended the legislation with a poison pill designed to pressure swing-district Democrats on immigration. The last-minute change calls for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be notified when an undocumented person fails a background check. Twenty-six Democrats voted for the amendment, which will have little practical effect: As Alex Yablon has reported for The Trace, the databases that are searched during a background check contain more records of unlawful aliens than any other kind of prohibiting document. But only about 1,300 people per year are blocked from buying a gun because of their immigration status. That’s compared to 42,000 denied annually because of a felony or serious misdemeanor on their record. 

Another bill to strengthen background checks is up for a vote today. The legislation would close the so-called Charleston Loophole, which allows a gun seller to release a gun to a customer if a background check has taken more than 72 hours to complete. Gun violence prevention activists say the vote may be close. 

The former Sig Sauer executives accused of illegal gun exports were spared jail time. Court officials said Wednesday that defense lawyers for the three men reached a deal with prosecutors to avoid a prison sentence. The former executives for the German gunmaker will instead be subject to hefty fines for allegedly selling at least 38,000 guns to Colombia, despite export papers that said they would be sold only within the United States.

Oklahoma lawmakers approved a permitless carry bill. The legislation, which would allow people over 21 to carry a concealed gun in public without first undergoing training and securing a license, passed yesterday on a 40-6 vote and was signed by the governor shortly after. The measure does not apply to people convicted of felonies or domestic violence misdemeanors, nor does it apply to people found by a court to have a mental illness. Fourteen states now allow some version of permitless carry.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce launched a new school safety institute. Officials say the Institute for a Safer Florida was designed to complement the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, which was created after last year’s massacre to address school safety specifically as it relates to incidents of mass violence. The institute, however, will not address the role of guns, instead focusing on issues like mental health and school security.

A student was wounded in a school shooting in Alabama. Montgomery Police arrested four teenagers at Lee High School on Tuesday following a shooting that left a 17-year-old injured. The wounded student was released from the hospital and the four suspects are in custody with one facing an attempted murder charge.

ONE LAST THING

Shootings near schools can take an enormous toll on students’ mental health. At Dymally High School in Los Angeles, more than 105 people have been killed within walking distance of the school in the past five years. And 13 other public high schools in Los Angeles County have seen least 50 homicides within a one-mile radius in the same time frame, an investigation by The Los Angeles Times found. For these students, the daily commute to and from school can be terrifying, and the constant exposure to violence can lead to mental health issues and learning difficulties. “They come in welled up with emotion, they’re crying and there’s no way they can concentrate on the lesson at hand, so whatever’s on the board as far as the lesson plan, that means nothing,” one teacher said. “They need more immediate help.”