House passes gun control measure that expands background checks on sales

WASHINGTON – The House passed the first of a pair of gun control bills, a priority for Democratic leaders impatient for years of poor success on the issue amid broad Republican opposition.

The vote went from 227 to 203 on a measure to extend background checks to nearly all gun sales. Eight Republicans supported the bill, while one Democrat opposed it.

The House was preparing separately to vote on extending the background check window to 10 days from three days, giving law enforcement authorities more time to screen people before they can buy guns.

Both arms measures were approved by the House in 2019, after Democrats regained control of the House in the midterm elections, but languished in the Senate when then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky. .) He declined to schedule the voting.

Prospects for legislation in the now Democrat-controlled Senate are uncertain, but the effort could further fuel the party’s effort to change the rules in the narrowly divided chamber to make it easier to pass bills.

“We know what we must do to help protect millions of Americans,” said Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D., California). “I proudly support these bills because the evidence is clear that they will make our communities safer and save lives.”

Republican opponents said the gun bills would impose bureaucratic burdens on law-abiding gun owners without addressing the pathways by which guns fall into the hands of people who misuse them.

A customer filled out a background check form at a gun store in Orem, Utah, last month.


george frey / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

Opponents also fear that the background checks are aimed at establishing a national registry that the federal government could later use to take guns away from gun owners, although the law prohibits the creation of a national registry.

“This bill creates a de facto gun registry by involving the federal government in every arms transfer, including private transfers and gifts, or else how are we going to enforce these requirements?” said Rep. Bob Good (R., Virginia) “For my Democratic friends who suggest that conservatives and gun owners are paranoid about a national registry, you can bet they are.”

House Democrats, emboldened by their new control of Congress and the White House, have been in a legislative tear after President Biden’s inauguration a month and a half ago, with votes on controversial bills on surveillance, rights. voting and now weapons. Narrow majorities in both the House and Senate are motivating House Democrats to pass as much as they can as quickly as they can, although many of the bills face great difficulties in the Senate.

Also driving the momentum was an internal rule covering House procedures that delays until April 1 a requirement that the legislation be subject to a committee hearing and vote. With that deadline weeks away, Democrats rushed to take the measures that were passed last year, including voting rights and police measures, without taking the time to subject the measure to normal committee procedures and allow get new members to step in.


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Passing the bills in quick succession could also put pressure on the Senate, where some Democrats want to change house procedures to clear up what they see as a bottleneck that has stopped their legislation. Many Democrats have argued changing or eliminating the 60-vote threshold, known as filibuster, necessary to advance most laws. It would take the support of all 50 senators in the Democratic field to change the rule, and several have said they don’t back down from that step.

The two arms bills being voted on deal with different aspects of gun ownership. A measure would mark the most significant gun control measure in decades by requiring buyers to be screened for nearly all private online sales and at gun shows, and would make it illegal to transfer and give guns to friends or family or in other private transactions. without going through background checks and meeting recordkeeping requirements. Currently, federal law requires checks only for sales made by federally licensed dealers, although some states have added their own requirements.

The other would lengthen to 10 business days out of three the amount of time firearms transactions could be delayed while waiting for a full background check through the Instant National Criminal Background Check System. The system operated by the FBI conducts inquiries to determine if a buyer is disqualified from owning a weapon.

The system failed in the 2015 shooting of nine people during a Bible study meeting at a historically black church, where shooter Dylann Roof was able to purchase a gun after his background check was extended for three days, allowing him to take it away. to home. A drug arrest in the past should have prevented you from purchasing the gun.

Congress has made no major changes to federal gun laws in recent years, even as some high-profile shootings targeted lawmakers, including then-Arizona Democratic Congresswoman Gabby Giffords in 2011 and then-Majority Leader of the House of Representatives Steve Scalise (R., Louisiana). in 2017.

After the shooting of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, a bill to expand background checks to all online sales and gun show sales narrowly failed in the Senate in 2013.

Bipartisan groups of lawmakers have also lobbied to prevent suspected terrorists from buying firearms by banning people from the government’s “no-fly” list, but a number of proposals fell short in 2016, following the nightclub shooting. Press in Orlando, Florida.

In March 2018, Congress included a provision in a spending bill signed by then-President Donald Trump to strengthen compliance with the national background check system for the purchase of firearms. The measure added incentives for state and federal agencies, including the military, to submit criminal conviction records to the system. Federal law requires agencies to submit relevant records, but at the state level, compliance is voluntary unless required by state law or federal funding requirements.

Write to Siobhan Hughes at [email protected]

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