House Democrats Begin Gun-Control Push

Bill outlaws gun sales between private parties on used market without FBI background check

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi / Getty Images
January 10, 2019

House Democrats announced on Tuesday night the first piece of gun-control legislation they planned to pursue now that they are back in power.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) joined a coalition of the nation's leading gun-control groups to unveil the new measure in an effort to demonstrate Democrats will make gun control a leading issue in the coming Congress. She spoke while standing alongside representatives from Moms Demand Action, the Brady Campaign, and March for Our Lives. Former congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot eight years ago on Tuesday and now represents one of the best funded gun-control groups in the country, also spoke in support of the bill.

"Today is a day of action," Pelosi said at the event. "We say enough is enough by finally bringing common sense bipartisan background check legislation to the floor of the House. The gun violence crisis is an epidemic that requires the energy engagement of our entire nation."

"Stopping gun violence takes courage," Giffords said. "The courage to do what's right. The courage of new ideas. I've seen great courage when my life was on the line. Now is the time to come together. Be responsible. Democrats. Republicans. Everyone."

The bill they unveiled, titled the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, would outlaw gun sales between private parties on the used market unless an FBI background check was obtained before the gun is transferred. It includes exceptions for temporary firearms transfers and gifts or sales between family members as well as a few other small carve outs but would expand background check requirements beyond sales conducted by licensed gun dealers.

Republican lawmakers signaled their opposition to the new gun-control measure after the bill was unveiled. Sen. Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) said the bill would not make progress in the Senate.

"You can't make this stuff up: We should be having big national security debates right now, but instead of that, showboating on gun control is Speaker Pelosi's priority," Sasse said. "And instead of working on basic solutions that can help prevent tragedies—common-sense stuff like making sure local law enforcement spots warning signs and federal agencies follow protocol—these gun-control busybodies are targeting law-abiding gun owners with their anti-Constitution proposals. Thankfully, this nonsense isn't going anywhere in the Senate."

"While I share the desire to end tragic gun violence, I find it hypocritical and counterproductive to advance gun-control measures that would have done nothing to prevent the horrific attack on Rep. Giffords and only serve to punish law-abiding citizens," said Rep. Richard Hudson (R., N.C.). "Currently, the law requires a background check on every commercial gun purchase in America. Current law also prohibits 'straw purchases.' This legislation does nothing to prevent gun violence, yet threatens the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens."

The National Rifle Association decried the legislation and said criminals would simply ignore the law if it passed.

"So-called universal background checks will never be universal because criminals do not comply with the law," said Jennifer Baker, spokesperson for the group's Institute for Legislative Action. "Instead of looking for effective solutions that will deal with the root cause of violent crime and save lives, anti-gun politicians would rather score political points and push ineffective legislation that doesn't stop criminals from committing crimes."