Congressional Democrats rolling out new gun-purchase background check legislation

January 8, 2019

Congressional Democrats on Tuesday are announcing new legislation to expand gun-purchase background checks to cover online and private sales, looking to push the gun issue early in the new Congress after taking control of the House.

Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was gravely wounded exactly eight years ago by a deranged gunman at a constituent event in Arizona, will be on Capitol Hill to aid Democrats in their push.

“Thanks to the relentless efforts of advocates, courageous gun violence survivors, and the American voters who elected new leaders to Congress, I am thrilled that for the first time in decades, the United States House of Representatives will no longer sit silent as our nation reels from the growing gun violence epidemic,” Ms. Giffords said.

Rep. Mike Thompson, California Democrat, is introducing a new version of a bill he’s pushed in the past that would expand the checks to cover more private transactions.

“We will hold hearings, we will have a vote, and this legislation will finally pass the House,” Mr. Thompson said in a statement. “The American people have been demanding we take action and this new Congress will deliver.”

Mr. Thompson told The Washington Times recently that the bill would go further in the number of transactions the checks cover than a bipartisan Senate bill pushed in 2013 after the Sandy Hook shooting by GOP Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Mr. Thompson also said it will still allow for some exceptions, like transactions between family members. The bill is expected to have some bipartisan support.

Federally-licensed gun dealers are currently required to conduct the checks through a national FBI database, while private sellers are not.

Senate Democrats on Tuesday also announced they are re-introducing legislation that would require federal background checks for all gun sales, including those at private shows and online. There would also be some exceptions, like transactions between family members and transfers between law enforcement officials.

“Voters stood up this fall and made it clear they want Congress to do more to keep our kids safe from gun violence,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, Connecticut Democrat. “We need to listen to them and pass our bill to save lives.”

While the Democrat-led House might be able to pass the new gun legislation, it’s unlikely to make it through the GOP-controlled Senate.

President Trump has also been a staunch supporter of gun rights, though his administration’s recent move to ban “bump stock”-type devices that allow semiautomatic rifles to mimic the fire of fully automatic weapons has prompted legal action from gun-rights advocates upset with the move.

Democrats acknowledge the long odds for new gun controls to actually become law, but they say the 2018 elections and the student-driven activism after last year’s Parkland, Fla. school shooting has fundamentally changed the politics of the issue, after the party had shied away from aggressively pushing new controls in recent decades.

Gun-rights advocates, meanwhile, point out that tighter background checks alone wouldn’t have prevented many recent mass shootings.

“So-called universal background checks will never be universal because criminals do not comply with the law,” said Jennifer Baker, a spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association. “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.”