After twenty years of stalemate battling over the grounds of gun control, the United States House passed the first of two bills that will deepen the information database in the federal background check system for the purchase of firearms in the opening in the opening days of March.
The first bill, titled “The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019,” easily made its way into through the House as 190 representatives lost to the 240 representatives who supported the bill. As of March 7, the second bill is at the mercy of the representatives. The second bill would extend the time frame that authorities must complete a background check before a gun sale is finalized. Currently, that time is only three business days and then the transaction is automatically carried out.
House Democrats hope that the passing of the bills would push the Senate to act on the reoccurring issue of gun control. The National Rifle Association (NRA) opposes any safety measures and the Senate is controlled by Republicans, many of whom greatly support the NRA and receive financial contributions from it. However, even if the Senate approves the bill, the President would veto it.
John Feinblatt, who serves as the president for Everytown for Gun Safety, uplifted lawmakers for “stepping up” in a statement.
“We applaud Speaker Pelosi and the bipartisan coalition of House members who supported this bill for stepping up and doing their part to close the giant—and deadly—loopholes in America’s background checks law,” said Feinblatt.
Executive Director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, Chris Cox, released a statement labeling the new background check as “extreme” and stating that it will, “make criminals out of law-abiding Americans. Criminals, on the other hand, will continue to get their firearms the way they always have—through the black market, theft, and straw purchases. Forcing more government paperwork and additional fees on good people trying to exercise a constitutional right will do nothing to make Americans safer.”
The new legislation requires background checks to be a vital part in all gun sales, extending to online or gun show purchases. Currently, only licensed gun dealers are required to carry out a background check.
However, loopholes still exist. The required use of background checks does not apply to transfers between close relatives or guns loaned to someone for use at a shooting range or hunting. Unless, there is reason to believe the gun will be used to commit a crime, the gun is transferred to prevent “imminent death or great bodily harm,” or the person on the receiving end of the transaction is prohibited from firearm possession under either state or federal law.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Thompson, said that the passage of the bill was a, “historic time,” and it would help, “save lives”. He also pinpointed the difficulties surrounding conversation about gun control throughout the past eight years.
“We were not able to get a single hearing or have a single vote in the House under the last majority. It’s a new day,” said Thompson
Thompson was joined by gun violence survivor and former congresswoman Gabby Giffords, whose life nearly ended when a gunman opened fire at a high-profile meeting in Tucson, Arizona in 2011. She said stopping gun violence takes “courage.”
“I’ve seen great courage when my life was on the line. Now is the time to come together, be responsible. Democrats, Republicans, everyone,” said Giffords.
Opposers of the bill say that the new bill would not have stopped the many recent mass shootings, specifically referring to the one in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students and faculty were killed at a high school. In addition to saying if made law, the bill could prevent law-abiding citizens from accessing firearms.
Right before passing, an amendment was made to the bill by Republicans and some Democrats that required federal immigration officials to be notified if someone in the United States tries to buy a gun illegally,
“I’m proud to work with the NRA to oppose these gun control bills they are bringing to the Capitol – HR 8 and HR 1112,” said Rep. Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana who was severely injured during a shooting at a congressional baseball practice in Virginia in 2017. “Both of these bills will strongly infringe upon the rights of law-abiding citizens to buy and ultimately share their own gun.”
HR 1112, the first bill passed in this sequence, gives the FBI more time to complete a background check. Supporters say because of flaws in the current system, a white supremacist in 2015 was able to buy a gun and kill nine churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, when having a previous drug arrest should have prevented him from getting the gun.
A large majority of Americans support background checks for gun buyers. A Quinnipiac poll from the month of February, revealed that 92 percent of respondents supported background checks for all buyers. The poll found well-rounded support even when factoring in the political affiliation of poll respondents: 95 percent of Democrats, 94 percent of independents and 89 percent of Republicans.