A controversial gun bill backed by House Democrats could steer taxpayer dollars to a leading gun-control ally to consult on a federal study of the background check system.
Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn's (D., S.C.) H.R. 1446 would require the attorney general to work with the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Firearms to report how the bill affects victims of domestic violence and empower the group to suggest other reforms. The center is a partner of the gun-control advocacy group Giffords Law Center, according to its website. The Giffords PAC spent more than $11 million backing Democratic candidates in the 2020 election.
The connection between the report and a prominent gun-control organization could hinder the appeal of the legislation. If Republicans or moderate Democrats are turned off by the provision, it will make the job of passing it through a closely divided House even more difficult. A similar bill passed in 2019 but saw seven Democrats join Republicans in opposition; H.R. 1446 would likely not survive such defections in 2021 following GOP gains in the House.
The bill would drastically increase the number of days the FBI can delay a gun purchase, giving the agency wide discretion to determine whether the buyer is prohibited from owning a gun. It would also require the attorney general's office, "in consultation with the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Firearms," to submit a report within 150 days of enactment. Republican Study Committee chairman Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.) said the provision undermines the bipartisan label Democrats are hoping to achieve for the bill.
"This bill is so partisan, that even the scientific studies it commissions are tainted by politics," Banks said. "If Republicans commissioned a pro-gun group to conduct a 'study' on the effect of, say, concealed carry permits, Democrats would be up in arms. And they’d have every reason to be."
Clyburn, the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Firearms, and Giffords did not respond to requests for comment.
Democrats are weighing the background check bill alongside other major restrictions. The House will also vote on H.R. 8, which outlaws private sales of used guns without the involvement of a licensed gun dealer. Both bills have received support from gun-control advocacy groups, including Giffords. March For Our Lives also supported the bill but chastised President Joe Biden and other Democrats for not going far enough. The group called the measures "the bare minimum we could demand."
Clyburn said in a statement announcing the bill that it is "needed to keep weapons out of the hands of those who should not have them and save lives." Banks disagreed, saying the bill is likely to be ineffective at stopping criminals.
"The truth is that 75 percent of criminals obtain their firearms through straw purchases or theft, so background checks wouldn’t make a real difference anyway," Banks said. "When ‘following the science’ is inconvenient, Democrats just cook the science. Republican Study Committee is committed to protecting Second Amendment rights, which is why we’re working to expose Democrats’ partisan gun-grabbing agenda."
Votes on both bills are scheduled for Wednesday.