The House Wednesday passed what could become the first major federal gun control law in over a decade, spurred by the Virginia Tech campus killings and buttressed by National Rifle Association help.
The bill, which was passed on a voice vote, would improve state reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to stop gun purchases by people, including criminals and those adjudicated as mentally ill, who are prohibited from possessing firearms.
Seung-Hui Cho, who in April killed 32 students and faculty at Virginia Tech before taking his own life, had been ordered to undergo outpatient mental health treatment and should have been barred from buying two guns he used in the rampage. But the state of Virginia had never forwarded this information to the national background check system.
If it moves through the Senate and is signed into law by the president, the bill would be the most important gun control act since Congress banned some assault weapons in 1994, the last year Democrats controlled the House. In 1996, Congress added people convicted of domestic violence to the list of those banned from purchasing firearms.
Sen. Charles Schumer (news, bio, voting record), D-N.Y. a proponent of gun control legislation, said the chances of Senate passage were "very strong." He said, "When the NRA and I agree on legislation, you know that it's going to get through, become law and do some good."
The bill was the outcome of weeks of negotiations between Rep. John Dingell (news, bio, voting record), D-Mich., the most senior member of the House and a strong supporter of gun rights, and the NRA, and in turn, with Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (news, bio, voting record), D-N.Y., a leading gun-control advocate.
"This is good policy that will save lives," McCarthy said.
A step in the right direction. If the Republicans had still been in control of Congress this wouldn't have gotten anywhere.
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