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Gun rider sparks Dem fury as GOP gloats

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A gun policy rider on a spending bill set to pass Congress this week is sparking partisan animosity, with Speaker Mike Johnson taking a victory lap during a closed-door House GOP meeting Wednesday and Democrats fuming — both publicly and privately.

The rider at issue preserves gun rights for military veterans who need Veterans Affairs support to manage their benefits. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a leading advocate for gun safety measures, said in a post on X that he would oppose the entire spending bill over the gun rider.

“This provision — which could result in 20,000 new seriously mentally ill individuals being able to buy guns each year — will be a death sentence for many,” Murphy wrote in a thread Wednesday morning. “It’s unacceptable this provision was pushed by Republicans. Democrats shouldn’t have acquiesced.”

During Wednesday morning’s private House GOP conference, Johnson touted Democrats’ opposition to the gun policy rider. It was also one of the main provisions he lauded in a list of the GOP victories when the package was released over the weekend.

Johnson read press reports to his conference, quoting Democrats who expressed “heartburn” about the gun rider and calling it the “largest rollback” for gun safety in the past three decades, according to a Republican in the room, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A version of the gun rider already passed the Senate last fall, with Democratic-aligned Sens. Angus King (Maine), Jacky Rosen (Nev.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), Jon Tester (Mont.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) in support.

But Murphy wasn’t the only one fretting about the rider’s inclusion on Wednesday.

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) highlighted concerns about the language during a closed-door Democratic conference meeting, according to multiple people in the room. And Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D-Fla.) called it “the greatest rollback of the background checks system since it was created” during a brief interview on Tuesday.

Democrats did secure one policy victory on guns in the spending bill, however, securing a seven-year extension on banning so-called ghost guns, or homemade firearms and weapons without serial numbers that are difficult for law enforcement to trace.

Caitlin Emma contributed to this report.