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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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Biden frees Venezuelan President Maduro’s drug dealing relatives in prisoner swap

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President Biden freed two of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s relatives Saturday in exchange for seven jailed Americans. The two nephews of Maduro’s wife Cilia Flores, had been convicted in the United States for drug dealing and sentenced to 18 years in prison, according to the BBC.

According to the report, the swap was in exchange for five American oil executives. Those Americans were “exchanged for two of Mr Maduro’s wife’s nephews, who were serving 18-year sentences in the US on drug charges,” the officials told the BBC. Maduro’s nephews were convicted under the Trump administration and the Venezuelan government claims that they were “unjustly” jailed in the United States.

In a statement from the White House Saturday, Biden said the American’s were  “wrongfully detained.”  He said the American’s  would soon be reunited with their relatives, according to reports.

“Today, we celebrate that seven families will be whole once more. To all the families who are still suffering and separated from their loved ones who are wrongfully detained – know that we remain dedicated to securing their release,” the Biden statement added.

Meanwhile, 13 Republican members of Congress sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, requesting more information on “the intelligence report” that alleges Maduro is emptying his prisons and allowing them to head to the United States in the caravans that crossing the porous border.

The letter states that the report warns Border Patrol agents to be on the look-out for “violent criminals from Venezuela among the migrant caravans heading towards the U.S.-Mexico border.”

“It has been widely reported that the Venezuelan regime, under the control of Nicolás Maduro Moros, is deliberately releasing violent prisoners early, including inmates convicted of ‘murder, rape, and extortion,’ and pushing them to join caravans heading to the United States,” the letter states.

You can follow Sara A. Carter on Twitter @SaraCarterDC.

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