Republicans scored a rare victory in the Democrat-controlled House Wednesday, winning a vote to have authorities notify deportation officers any time an illegal immigrant tries to buy a gun.
It’s illegal for those in the country without legal status to have firearms, but an average of more than 10 a day try anyway.
Republicans offered an amendment to a broader gun background check bill to have the National Instant Criminal Background Check System report them to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which could then decide if it wants to pick them up for deportation.
The amendment was approved on a 220-209 vote, with 26 Democrats joining the GOP in support. Only one Republican voted against it.
Rep. Doug Collins, Georgia Republican, said it was a chance for Democrats to prove they really did want to get tough on stopping guns from going to those who are supposed to be banned buyers.
“If you vote ‘No,’ you are allowing someone who should not have a firearm to get away with it and not be prosecuted for it,” he said.
But Rep. David Cicilline, Rhode Island Democrat, called the vote a sham.
He said he’s working on another bill that would have local law enforcement investigate anyone who tries to obtain a gun when they’re on the banned-buyer list.
He said trying to tie illegal immigration to the gun background check bill was an attempt to “muck this up with a gimmick.”
There are a dozen general categories of banned buyers. The most prominent reason for denying a gun purchase is someone is a convicted criminal. Fugitives, those under indictment, drug addicts and domestic violence cases are also reasons, along with being an illegal immigrant.
In 2016, 3,076 illegal immigrants had their gun purchases rejected. The number reached 3,569 in 2017.
Wednesday’s vote was the second time this month the House GOP has used the parliamentary tactic known as a “motion to recommit” to win an amendment to a bill.
Though the tactic is sometimes intended to kill legislation, it can also be used as a chance to try to force debate on an amendment of the minority party’s choice.
In this case, the underlying bill expanded background checks for firearms purchases.
Earlier this month the House used the motion to recommit to adding an amendment intended to condemn anti-semitism to a broader resolution dealing with U.S. policy in Yemen.
“It’s frustrating,” said Rep. Dan Kildee, a top member of House Democrats’ vote-counting operation. “I think there are some members who don’t fully understand what a motion to recommit really is. It’s an amendment that is dropped on us with five minutes notice. It’s intended to poison the bill, not to improve it.”
“It’s obviously something we’re going to have to address,” he said.