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US House

A Closer Look
at Gun Issues...

For constituents seeking to dig deeper into their representative's stands on gun issues, this page provides additional detail on six key House votes from 2017-2018, including pro-and-con quotes that spotlight partisan and ideological differences in this policy area.
1. Nullifying Rule On Background Checks (Social Security)
(Votes lookup at Roll Call #77)

The House on Feb. 2, 2017, voted, 235 for and 180 against, to nullify an Obama Administration rule designed to keep the mentally ill from passing federal background checks on gun purchases. Under the rule, the Social Security Administration was required to notify the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System of individuals receiving disability benefits on the basis of mental impairment. Opponents said the rule cut against both disability and Second Amendment rights, while supporters said it was only common sense to keep guns away from the deranged.

Supporter Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.:
The rule erred in putting "the burden on individuals to prove that restoring their Second Amendment rights would not pose a danger to public safety," instead of on the government to prove the individual unfit to bear arms.
Opponent Mike Thompson, D-Calif.:
"These are people with a severe mental illness who can't hold any kind of job or make any decisions about their affairs. So the law says very clearly that they shouldn't have a firearm."
A yes vote was to send HJ Res 40 to the Senate, where it was adopted and sent to President Trump, who signed it into law Feb. 28, 2017.
2. Nullifying Rule On Background Checks (Veterans)
(Votes lookup at Roll Call #169)

Voting 240 for and 175 against, the House on March 16, 2017, passed a bill that would require patient-by-patient judicial review before the Department of Veterans Affairs could submit the names of veterans with serious mental issues to the FBI's system of background checks on gun purchasers. Under the bill (HR 1181), a judicial authority would have to rule the person "mentally defective" before any referral could be made to the FBI. Referral foes said they violate Second Amendment rights, while backers said it was only common sense to keep guns away from a population afflicted by post-traumatic stress disorder and high rates of suicide.

Supporter Ken Buck, R-Colo:
"The decision to strip any constitutional right from anyone, most importantly our veterans...needs to be made with due process."
Opponent Mike Thompson, D-Calif.:
It is "absolute stupidity" for the bill to "make it easier for veterans to take their own lives. I don't want to see another veteran become a statistic."
A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate, where if failed.
3. Federalizing State Laws On Concealed-Carry
(Votes lookup at Roll Call #663)

Voting 231 for and 198 against, the House on Dec. 6, 2017, sent the Senate a bill (HR 38) that would make it easier for travelers to carry concealed, loaded handguns from state to state. The bill would federalize the patchwork of state laws on concealed handguns by requiring every state to recognize every other state's concealed-carry permit or authority. In part, this would allow residents of the 12 states that did not require permits to legally carry concealed handguns in the many states that deny permits to domestic-abusers, stalkers and convicted felons. The bill also would tighten reporting requirements for the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Supporter John Rutherford, R-Fla.:
The bill ensures that "law-abiding citizens can retain the constitutional right to bear arms legally across state lines and hopefully be able to stop a violent incident. None of our other constitutional rights stop at a state line. Our Second Amendment rights should not stop at that line either."
Opponent Jamie Raskin, D-Md.:
The bill "brings us down to the level of the lowest, most permissive laws in the country. My state doesn't give concealed carry permits to domestic abusers, to violent offenders and to dangerously unstable people. Don't drag us down to the lowest level. Protect states' rights."
A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate, where it failed.
4. Refusing To Exempt Violent Criminals From Bill
(Votes lookup at Roll Call #662)

Voting 190 for and 236 against, the House on Dec. 6, 2017, refused to amend HR 38 (above) so that it would deny protection to concealed-carry permit holders who have been convicted of a violent crime in the preceding three years. Under the amendment, these individuals would be prevented from carrying a concealed, loaded handgun in any state other than their own whose laws deny a permit based on a conviction for the same crime.

Supporter Mike Thompson, D-Calif.:
A vote for his amendment "is a pro-states' rights, pro-Second Amendment and anti-criminal vote."
Opponent Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.:
The amendment was an attempt by Democrats "to hamper the passage of this important legislation."
A yes vote was to add an exemption for violent criminals to the bill.
5. Barring Floor Debate On Post-Parkland Gun Bills
(Votes lookup at Roll Call #83)

On a vote of 228 for and 184 against, the House on Feb. 27, 2018, blocked a Democratic resolution allowing the House to debate two gun-safety bills. One (HR 3464) would prevent a firearms dealer from selling a weapon before completion of a federal background check. The second (HR 4240) would incentivize reporting to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background System. It also would expand criminal and mental-health background checks to cover all firearms transactions except those among family members, friends and hunting partners, thus ending exemptions for certain purchases occurring at gun shows, over the Internet and through classified ads. This vote was conducted after Republican leaders, who controlled the House agenda, declined to immediately bring gun legislation to the floor following a Feb. 14, 2018, mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

The Democratic resolution was quashed by the presiding officer's ruling that it did not qualify under House rules as a "privileged question" entitled to floor action. On the vote reported here, Republicans upheld that ruling after it was appealed by Democrats.
Supporter Jim McGovern, D-Mass.:
"I would say to my colleagues who are beholden to the National Rifle Association: I get it. If you don't want to stand up to them, that is fine. But don't stand in the way of this House having a debate on these issues and having a vote. Let the American people see where everybody stands, Democrats and Republicans alike."
No member spoke on the other side of the issue.
A yes vote was in opposition to allowing floor debate on the two bills.
6. Blocking Proposal To Expand Background Checks
(Votes lookup at Roll Call #229)

Voting 224 for and 191 against, the House on May 24, 2018, blocked a Democratic attempt to amend the fiscal 2018 military budget (HR 5515) to expand background checks on commercial gun transactions.The motion would require checks on sales over the Internet and between private parties at gun shows, closing loopholes that allow an estimated 40 percent of gun sales to avoid mandatory checks by the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System. This was the first congressional vote on gun issues since a shooting six days earlier at a Santa Fe, Texas, high school that killed 10 people and wounded 10 others.

Supporter Mike Thompson, D-Calif.:
After Santa Fe, "As usual, members sent thoughts and prayers. They said things have got to change, and then they did nothing. We held our 47th moment of silence since the tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary School five-and-one-half years ago. For every member who looks into the face of yet another grieving family and says, `I'm with you,' and then does nothing, I have a message for you, you're complicit. You're allowing criminals and the dangerously mentally ill easy access to guns. Your inaction is leading to gravestone after gravestone."
No opponent spoke on the topic of guns. Instead, Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, objected to the motion on parliamentary grounds, saying that its spending provisions would violate the Congressional Budget Act. His objection was upheld by the chair, and on this vote, the House affirmed that ruling.
A yes vote was in opposition to adding language on background checks to the fiscal 2019 military budget.
Copyright 2019, Thomas Voting Reports, Inc.