Dems Jumpstart Gun-Control Efforts

Proposals could delay purchases up to 20 days, ban private sale of used guns

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D., S.C.) / Getty Images
March 2, 2021

Two new Democratic proposals could force gun buyers to wait almost seven times longer to receive their weapon and ban the private sale of used guns.

The bills introduced by Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D., S.C.) and Rep. Mike Thompson (D., Calif.) seek to expand the federal gun background check system. Clyburn's bill would extend how long the FBI can delay a sale before completing a background check from 3 to 20 days, while Thompson's bill would outlaw private sales of used guns unless they are processed through a licensed dealer. 

"Enacting common-sense gun-control measures is a priority for President Biden and this Democratic Congress, and this legislation is a good first step," Clyburn said in a statement.  

The move comes after gun-control groups, which spent tens of millions backing President Joe Biden and other Democrats who promised aggressive action on guns, grew impatient with the new administration's lack of immediate action. March For Our Lives and the Community Justice Action Fund lashed out at them in late February and issued a series of demands. Brady United, another leading gun-control group, said in an email to supporters the introduction of the bills was "a direct result of the pressure" they put on Congress. 

March For Our Lives said Thompson's universal background check bill represents "a glimmer of hope" but called on President Biden to get more involved in its passage. 

"If President Biden truly wants to unify America, he should lead on passing universal background checks, a solution that is supported by over 90% of Americans, regardless of political party," the group said in a statement. 

Gun-rights groups decried the legislation. The National Rifle Association said universal background checks "do not stop criminals" and pointed to a 2019 Department of Justice study indicating the vast majority of criminals obtain their guns from black market sources or through theft. The National Shooting Sports Foundation called Clyburn's bill "un-American" and said it would reverse the way the current background check system works. 

"This bill increases the burden on small business firearm retailer owners and flips the burden of proof on its head," Lawrence G. Keane, the group's senior vice president, said. "This would make it incumbent upon the law-abiding citizen to prove his or her innocence to the government to exercise their Second Amendment right to purchase a firearm instead of the government being responsible for proving an individual is prohibited." 

March For Our Lives described universal background checks as "the bare minimum we could demand" and said they would not back off pressuring Congress and President Biden until all the policies they favor become law. 

"Even with universal background checks as law, we are nowhere close to declaring victory on gun violence in the United States," the group said. "This is a public health crisis, a national epidemic, that must be addressed with a national, unified plan." 

The group said until other parts of their demands to the Biden administration are met, including national funding for gun-violence "research and data collection," Americans "will continue to have blood on our hands."