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.
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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