House Passes Gun-Control Bills

Universal background check, background deadline extension bills unlikely to become law

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The House of Representatives passed new gun-control legislation on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning.

H.R. 8 and H.R. 1112 both passed the House along mostly party lines with Democrats largely supporting the gun-control initiatives, Republicans largely opposed, and a handful from each party crossing the aisle. Neither bill is likely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate, and the White House has said President Trump would issue a veto if either were to make it to his desk.

"The extensive regulation required by H.R. 8 is incompatible with the Second Amendment’s guarantee of an individual right to keep arms," the White House said in a statement earlier this week. "By overly extending the minimum time that a licensed entity is required to wait for background check results, H.R. 1112 would unduly impose burdensome delays on individuals seeking to purchase a firearm. If H.R. 8, or H.R. 1112, are presented to the President, his advisors would recommend he veto the bill."

H.R. 8, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019, would outlaw the sale of used firearms between private citizens unless they first transfer the firearm through a licensed gun dealer who performs a background check on the buyer. It includes exceptions for guns sold to close relatives or temporarily loaned to another person but only if it's used immediately for self-defense, the borrower remains in the owner's presence, the borrower is using the gun for hunting, or the borrower uses it exclusively at a shooting range. The executor of an estate may also take possession of a deceased person's firearms without first transferring them through a licensed dealer under the law.

Despite opposition from Democratic leadership, Republicans were able to force an amendment to the legislation requiring the FBI report any illegal immigrant who attempts to unlawfully purchase a firearm to ICE.

H.R. 1112, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019, would extend the number of days a gun purchase can be delayed from 3 to 10. Democrats said the legislation was a response to the murder of nine people at a church in Charleston, S.C., after the shooter was able to obtain his gun despite not passing a background check. In that case, however, the transaction was allowed to proceed because mistakes made by FBI agents conducting his background check left the agency unable to find the shooter’s disqualifying legal record. The shooter didn’t go through with his attack until several months after purchasing his firearm.

Democrats and gun-control activists hailed the passage of the bills as "historic" and vowed to push more gun-control proposals.

"Today's historic gun safety victory in Congress is a testament to courage," Gabby Giffords, former congresswoman and leader of the eponymous gun-control group, said in a statement. "The leaders we elected to protect us are finally fighting to make our country a safer place to live, work, study, worship, and play. Today's victory in the House is a critical first step toward stronger gun laws that will save lives. The responsibility to take the next step now shifts to the Senate."

Republicans and gun-rights activists had the opposite reaction calling the measures "extreme" and asserting they would not have prevented any recent mass shootings.

"Let's make one thing clear: H.R. 8 would not have stopped Newtown. H.R. 8 would not have stopped Parkland," Rep. Richard Hudson (R., N.C.) said on the House floor.  "It would not have stopped Las Vegas, or Sutherland Springs, or San Bernardino or the tragic attack on our former colleague, congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords."

"The anti-gun politicians in the House of Representatives continue to employ the shameful tactic of exploiting tragedies to market gun control that won’t prevent criminals from committing murder," said Chris Cox, head of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action. "It's a sham and the Charleston Loophole bill is the perfect example of their dishonesty. The assertion that a supposed 10-day delay would have prevented a crime that took place over 60 days after the initial delay is ridiculous. This legislation would not have prevented the Charleston murders, and even worse, the legislation is so poorly drafted it would put law-abiding citizens who need a firearm for self-defense at risk by trapping them in an endless loop of delays."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R., Ky.) office did not immediately return a request for comment, but the Senate is unlikely to take up votes on either of the gun-control bills.

Stephen Gutowski   Email Stephen | Full Bio | RSS
Stephen Gutowski is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He founded his own site as a junior in college and has been writing about news and politics since that time. He spent 4 years with the Media Research Center and was most recently with the Capitol City Project. His email address is Gutowski@FreeBeacon.com. His twitter handle is @StephenGutowski.

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