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?
Days after reclaiming the House majority, Democrats are introducing gun control legislation timed for the anniversary of the shooting of former Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats will introduce a bill to expand background checks for sales and transfers of firearms on Tuesday, the eighth anniversary of the day Giffords was shot in the head at a constituent meeting in Arizona. Giffords, who co-founded a gun safety group with her husband, Mark Kelly, said in a statement Friday she was thrilled that her former House colleagues were responding to a gun-violence epidemic that killed nearly 40,000 people last year.
The bill expanding background checks “marks a critical first step toward strengthening America’s gun laws and making our country a safer place to live, work, study, worship and play,” Giffords said. “I stand ready to do everything in my power to get this legislation across the finish line.”
Democrats promised swift action on gun control after the party regained the House majority following eight years of Republican rule.
Democrats will act quickly to bring “commonsense” gun control reforms to the table, Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi promised in a statement.
“The new Democratic majority will act boldly and decisively to pass commonsense, life-saving background checks that are overwhelmingly supported by the American people,” Pelosi said, Politico reported Monday.
With Pelosi’s support, Democrats have coalesced to create a gun reform proposal that will require federal background checks on all gun sales, including private sales, Politico reported. The measure is spearheaded by Democratic California Rep. Mike Thompson, a Pelosi ally who says a bill for universal background checks will be introduced to Congress in early 2019, according to Politico.
The U.S. military has added more than 4,000 names of dishonorably discharged service members to a national background check system in the months since an ex-airman opened fire in a church, CNN reported.
Devin Kelley opened fire in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in November, killing 26 people.
Kelley had been court-martialed in 2012 for assaulting his wife and stepson, and as a result should have been blocked from purchasing a firearm. However, the Air Force failed to submit his records to the FBI’s background check system.
In an effort to address the problem, the Department of Defense has worked to update the FBI’s background check system. The effort has led to an increase of 4,284 names added to the system based on dishonorable discharges, CNN reported.
The Texas church shooting prompted lawmakers to introduce legislation to strengthen the national background check system.
One bipartisan bill required states and agencies to produce plans for sending records to the National Instant Background Check System that would show if an individual is prohibited from buying a gun and verifying the information is accurate.
Another proposal in response to the shooting was aimed at eliminating the loophole that allowed Kelly to purchase a gun. It would require that the military report domestic violence convictions that were handled through court-martial to the background check system.