The House just passed what could be the biggest change to federal gun laws in decades

The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a universal background check bill — which, if the Senate were interested in passing it, would be the most significant gun control legislation in a generation.

Under current federal law, licensed dealers are required to run a background check to make sure a buyer doesn’t have a criminal record, history of mental illness, or any other factor that legally bars him from purchasing a gun.

But the law has a big loophole: Private sellers — meaning unlicensed sellers — don’t have to run a background check. So someone who doesn’t run a licensed gun shop can sell or gift a firearm at a gun show, over the internet, or to friends and family without verifying through a background check that the buyer isn’t legally prohibited from purchasing the weapon.

The new bill, HR 8, would close this loophole, although it would leave some exemptions for gun transfers among family and temporary transfers (like lending a gun) while hunting.

For years, the proposal — for universal or comprehensive background checks — has been the top item on gun control advocates’ wish list. It polls extremely well among gun owners, people who don’t own guns, Democrats, Republicans — basically everyone. And it certainly makes sense: If there’s a loophole that potentially lets criminals get guns, why not close it?

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