By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily
U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney joined the majority in the House on Friday in voting for the most wide-ranging gun control legislation approved in nearly 30 years.
While Cheney voted against the measure as it was originally approved by the House, she voted for the compromise version that was returned by the Senate.
“As a mother and a constitutional conservative, I’m proud to support this sensible bill that will protect our children and limit violence without infringing on law-abiding citizens’ Second Amendment rights,” Cheney said in a statement after casting her vote.
“Nothing in the bill restricts the rights of responsible gun owners. Period. I will always protect the Second Amendment,” she said.
U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis voted against passing the bill out of the Senate on Thursday.
Cheney’s vote was criticized immediately by Harriet Hageman, one of her opponents in the GOP primary for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat.
“Whatever Liz Cheney is doing with our only House seat, she certainly isn’t using it to represent the views and values of the people of Wyoming,” Hageman said in a press release.
“The lawful possession of firearms for hunting and self-defense is an integral part of our DNA in this state, and we don’t want our constitutional rights negotiated away. We all agree that mental health is an important issue that needs to be addressed, but we should not limit the rights of law-abiding citizens,” Hageman said.
Heads To Biden
The bipartisan legislation now headed for the desk of President Joe Biden enhances background checks for prospective gun buyers under 21 years old and closes the “boyfriend loophole” to extend prohibitions on gun ownership by those convicted of domestic violence to those who were dating their victims.
The law would also set aside $750 million in grants to encourage states to adopt “red flag laws,” which allow law enforcement officers, family members and friends to seek the confiscation of firearms from people they consider a danger to themselves or others.
Other sections of the law clarify the definition of a Federally Licensed Firearms Dealer, creates criminal penalties for straw purchases and gun trafficking and provides billions of dollars for mental health services.
The original version of the bill, which was opposed by Cheney, would also have raised the age at which people can buy semi-automatic rifles to 21 and have allowed local residents to pay individuals who surrender high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Cheney said the final version of the law balances safety concerns against Second Amendment rights.
“This legislation recognizes the importance of that right while making our schools safer, providing more tools for law enforcement, and expanding funding for mental health resources which is why I voted for it,” Cheney said.
State Sen. Anthony Bouchard, who is also running against Cheney and founded Second Amendment group Wyoming Gun Owners, described Cheney’s vote as “pandering” to Democrats in a Friday afternoon Facebook post.
Mark Jones, national director of hunters’ programs for Gun Owners of America, agreed with Bouchard’s assessment of Cheney’s vote, noting the incumbent on Thursday issued campaign literature telling people how to switch parties to vote for her in the GOP primary.
Jones also said his organization plans to challenge the legislation in court, alleging it violates the Second, Fourth and Fifth amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
“It’s regrettable that these lawmakers would ignore their oath to follow the Constitution in signing this legislation,” he said.
In early discussions on the legislation, Lummis wavered from her staunch pro gun stance and expressed an openness to considering a package of bills that could have included changes to red flag laws and juvenile background checks. She said her statement came in response to calls from constituents asking for increased gun control measures.
However, the final bill approved in the Senate exceeded what Lummis believed was necessary, she said.
“Mental health needs to be addressed in this country, but this bill infringes on Americans’ Constitutional rights,” Lummis said on Twitter Thursday.
In a press release, Barrasso expressed similar sentiments.
“I am committed to finding solutions that focus on our nation’s mental health crisis and make schools safer for students and teachers,” Barrasso said in a Thursday night press release. “These solutions must also always protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans.”
This legislation has been endorsed by both the Fraternal Order of Police and the National Sheriffs’ Association.
Moms Demand Action
Beth Howard, Wyoming legislative lead for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a national gun safety organization, said the legislation is a big win for their cause and praised Cheney for her vote.
“Liz Cheney is aware of what the vast majority of Wyoming and U.S. citizens see as necessary action,” she said.
A recent ABC/Ipsos poll showed that 70% Americans find that new legislation reducing gun violence should be prioritized over protecting gun rights.
The gun control movement gained steam in light of multiple mass shooting events in recent weeks that slayed dozens.
However, Hageman objected specifically to the “red flag” laws, saying they can be abused to deny gun ownership to responsible citizens.
Research on the effectiveness of such laws is mixed. One study found that one suicide was averted for every 10 to 20 gun seizures. Another found that these laws do not significantly reduce firearm violence.
Approval of the gun control legislation comes on the heels of Thursday’s Supreme Court decision affirming that the Second Amendment protects the right of law-abiding Americans to carry a firearm outside of the home.