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House passes bills expanding background checks for gun sales

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On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed two bills seeking to strengthen background checks on firearm sales and transfers.

Both bills were passed by the House previously but wound up failing. After Democrats regained control of the House following the 2018 midterms, the lower chamber passed both gun-control measures in 2019. However, both died in the Senate when then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused to schedule votes.

Democrats have lauded the bills as a step in the right direction in combatting gun violence, especially mass shootings. Republicans opposing the bills, however, have argued that both measures would place bureaucratic burdens on law-abiding gun owners without discussing the means through which firearms end up in the hands of those who misuse them.

Despite Democrats now holding a razor-thin majority in the Senate, both bills passed Thursday are unlikely to succeed in surpassing the 60-vote threshold. For it to pass in the upper chamber, they would need to convince 10 GOP senators to defect, assuming all 50 Democrats vote in favor.

The first bill, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, was approved Thursday in a 227-203 vote with eight Republicans supporting the legislation and a lone Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden (Maine), breaking ranks with his party. Notably, Golden voted similarly the previous day, when he and every single House Republican voted against the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package that wound up passing.

RELATED: House approves $1.9T COVID relief bill, Biden set to sign Friday

The measure would implement new background check requirements for gun transfers between private parties.

Moreover, the bill—led by Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson (Calif.)—aims to “utilize the current background checks process” in an attempt to ensure individuals barred from possessing a firearm cannot obtain one.

Right now, unlicensed and private vendors are not forced to conduct background checks for gun transfers—as opposed to licensed firearm sellers, who are required to do so.

The bill would mandates “a licensed gun dealer, manufacturer, or importer” to first take possession of the gun while a background check is being conducted. One exemption the legislation creates, though, is for transfers made as a gift between spouses.

Three Republicans—Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Chris Smith (N.J.), and Fred Upton (Mich.)—co-sponsored the bill.

In addition to them, GOP lawmaker who also backed the legislation were Reps. Vern Buchanan (Fla.), Andrew Garbarino (N.Y.), Carlos Gimenez (Fla.), Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), and Maria Salazar (Fla.).

On the same day the House passed the first bill, a second one was also approved. Spearheaded by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the Enhanced Background Checks Act—H.R. seeks to shut down the “Charleston loophole.”

Clyburn’s legislation, though, was passed with less support. In a 219-210 vote, Republican Reps. Fitzpatrick and Smith and Democratic Reps. Golden and Ron Kind (D-Wis.) ditched their respective sides of the aisle on the vote.

If ultimately ratified, the bill would extend the review period during which a background check can be conducted before buying a firearm from the current three days to 10.

Clyburn first introduced the legislation following the 2015 mass shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, that saw a white supremacist murder nine Black church-goers.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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EXCLUSIVE: Former Trump appointee explains an ‘America First Strategy’ in the ME

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Photo: Israeli Government

The author interviewed Ellie Cohanim, one of the authors of the new book: “An America First Approach to US National Security.” Ellie is the former U.S. Deputy Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism under the Trump administration. She is currently a Senior Fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum focusing on Iran, Israel, and global antisemitism, and is a national security contributor for the Christian Broadcasting Network. In 2021, Ellie launched and hosted for Jewish News Syndicate 30 plus episodes of the show “Global Perspectives with Ellie Cohanim.” Ellie spent 15 years in media and NGO management before serving in the public sector. How would you define an “America First” strategy in the Middle East?

Cohanim: An America First strategy in the Middle East would seek to advance American national security interests in that region, while maintaining our status as THE global superpower. To do that, the US would ensure that our principal allies in the region, countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel, are economically and militarily strong, and that our adversaries in the region are deterred.

Postal: How has the United States’ standing in the Middle East differed between the Trump and Biden administrations?

Cohanim: Under President Trump, for four years we had peace, stability and prosperity in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region. Under President Biden, in just three tumultuous years there has been war in the region, which holds the potential for becoming a regional conflict and even a nuclear confrontation. Meanwhile, the US’ status in the region and the world has diminished due to Biden’s disastrous mishandling of the Afghanistan withdrawal, his emboldening of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and his weak response to Iranian attacks on our personnel and assets in the region. 

 

Postal: Do you think the United States and Israel are/were in a stronger position to deter Iran’s nuclear and territorial ambitions in Biden or Trump’s administration?

Cohanim: America’s position of strength has not changed under either administration vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic of Iran. What has changed is our Iran policy. Under President Trump’s administration, the US contained and constrained Tehran. Trump applied a “Maximum Pressure” sanctions campaign which left the Iranian Regime with only $4 billion in accessible foreign currency reserves by the end of his term, giving the Iranians less cash and less ability to fund their terror proxies and their nuclear program, and Trump eliminated Qassem Soleimani. While all President Biden needed to do was to continue implementing such successful policies, his administration instead did the exact opposite.  Under the Biden administration, Israel, our leading ally in the region, was attacked for the first time directly from Iranian soil. This was an unprecedented escalatory attack by the Iranian regime, and could only happen under the Biden administration.

Postal: In your chapter of the book, you discuss the weakening of US relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia under the Biden administration. How has the Biden administration affected the likelihood of future normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and deals between Israel and other Muslim countries (i.e., new Abraham Accords)?

Cohanim: The good news is that the Abraham Accords have withstood the test of multiple Hamas provocations against Israel, and now the current war. Despite numerous claims from the Biden administration regarding “successful” efforts to normalize ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel, I do not think that the Biden administration will be able to clinch such a deal. In the Middle East, people have a long memory. Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has not forgotten President Biden’s snub when he first came into office, and Biden’s incredibly poorly advised behavior towards the Crown Prince when he made his first visit to the Kingdom as president. The last thing the Crown Prince wants is to hand Biden his first foreign policy success with a Rose Garden peace deal ceremony. So, I do not believe President Biden can broker Saudi/Israeli normalization.

However, I am also convinced that it is a matter of “when” and not “if” such a peace deal will happen between those two countries, as it serves both of their interests to make such a deal. The Saudis understand better than anyone that it is the Islamic Republic of Iran that threatens the Kingdom’s security and stability, not Israel.

Postal: What do you think of the Biden administration’s latest statements withholding arms to Israel?

Cohanim: President Biden will go down in history for his abject moral failure in not standing by Israel while she fights a five-front war. Biden has shown his despicable personality for trying to keep his anti-Israel arms embargo concealed until he could first deliver a speech on the Holocaust. Biden’s behavior is despicable on so many levels.

Ultimately, Biden is betraying the American people. He came into office presenting himself as a “centrist Democrat,” but has proven repeatedly to be beholden to the radical, extremist, pro-Hamas wing of his party.

Postal: How does the Biden administration’s support of a Palestinian state differ from the Trump administration’s support of a Palestinian state under its Peace to Prosperity framework?

Cohanim: The Biden administration stated that they will “unilaterally recognize” a Palestinian state. What the borders of that state are and who would lead it, nobody knows. 

The Trump administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” was a detailed plan that was premised on the realities on the ground in Israel. The plan required that the Palestinians reach benchmarks proving a real desire to live in peace with their Israeli neighbors. It included over $50 billion in investment in the region, which would have been a road to prosperity for all. Perhaps most significantly, the Palestinian state envisioned under the Trump plan would have been demilitarized, the wisdom of which could not be more clear following the October 7 massacre and attack.

The author would like to thank Ellie Cohanim for participating in this interview.

 

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