Gun Safety Steps Into the Congressional Spotlight. (And it’s Here to Stay.)

Gabby Press Conference Cropped Edited
On Tuesday, February 26, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, lawmakers, and student leaders from across the country called on Congress to pass the background checks legislation.

Americans are demanding action on gun violence. With the gun lobby’s iron grip on Washington DC slipping, Congress is beginning to respond.

In 2018, after enduring a horrendous string of high-profile mass shootings and the unending strain of daily gun violence, voters sent a message that they would not accept this as the new normal. They elected a new majority to the House of Representatives that ran on gun safety.

All eyes were on these new members who made the 116th Congress the most diverse ever. What issues would unite them? What would their agenda be? Could they all get along? The first two months of the new session has given us an answer to these questions.

This New Majority Came Together on Gun Safety from Day One

From the beginning, we saw unprecedented action on the issue of gun safety. Speaker Nancy Pelosi made passing universal background checks a personal priority. Just days into the new Congress, at a press conference on January 8, the eighth anniversary of the Tucson shooting, the Speaker, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Chairman Mike Thompson declared that America couldn’t wait any longer to take action to end gun violence and introduced H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act.

Speaker Pelosi, Rep. Mike Thompson, Rep. Lucy McBath, Shannon Watts and Gabby Giffords with survivors and advocates, announce the introduction of H.R. 8 - the Bipartisan Background Checks Act.
Speaker Pelosi, Rep. Mike Thompson, Rep. Lucy McBath, Shannon Watts and Gabrielle Giffords with survivors and advocates, announce the introduction of H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act.

Meaningful Debates About Guns Returned to Congress

19.02 SOC UBC Calls to Action_Quote_Aalayah EastmondThe conversation didn’t end after that. On February 6, the House Judiciary Committee held the first hearing on gun violence prevention in over a decade. Giffords Law Center Executive Director Robyn Thomas was among those to testify about the importance of running a background check on every gun sale. The room was filled with students who watched as the committee approved H.R. 8 and another bill to address the Charleston loophole, H.R. 1112, which gives the FBI additional time to investigate whether potentially dangerous people should be able to obtain guns.

[6 Must-See Moments from the Historic House Hearing on Gun Violence]

Only a few short years ago, after the horror of the Pulse nightclub shooting, members could only protest on the floor of the House. Now they are proactively moving legislation.

Gun Safety is in Congress to Stay

In two days in late February, the new majority passed both background checks bills. These were historic days for gun safety in America—and we’re just getting started.

Giffords Courage Fellows celebrate the passage of H.R. 8 on the steps of the US Capitol.

Just yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee held a hearing detailing how we must secure investments in federal research so we can better understand this public health emergency.

[The House Held a Hearing on Gun Violence Research. That’s Big News.]

Many members continue to introduce other gun safety bills, including bills to address the nexus of domestic violence and guns as well as bills to temporarily remove firearms from dangerous individuals. Senator Lindsey Graham, who runs the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced a hearing later this month to examine and debate extreme risk laws.

Our country remains mired in a gun violence crisis that killed nearly 40,000 Americans in 2017. The president continues to focus on manufacturing crises rather than acknowledging a real one hurting communities in every state. But we are going to continue to fight for progress. No one thought we’d ever see the day when both chambers of Congress would make gun safety a priority. In the fight to save lives, anything is possible when you don’t give up.