Updated Mar 11, 2021 - Politics & Policy

House votes to expand gun background checks

Nancy Pelosi
Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The House voted 227-203 Thursday to pass a bill that would require background checks for all gun purchasers. Within hours, the chamber voted 219-210 on a second background check bill to close the "Charleston loophole," which allowed Dylann Roof to buy a firearm used to kill nine people at a Black church in 2015.

Why it matters: Overhauling the nation's gun control laws is a priority for Democrats and the Biden administration, but the bill is unlikely to pass the 60-vote threshold in the Senate, where Republicans oppose attempts to curtail gun rights.

Details: The first bill (H.R. 8) became the first gun control legislation considered by Congress in nearly 25 years after it was first passed by the House in 2019, following a wave of youth-led activism in the wake of the Parkland shooting. It was never taken up by the GOP-controlled Senate.

  • The bill would prohibit anyone who is not a licensed firearms importer, manufacturer or dealer from transferring a firearm to an unlicensed person without a background check.
  • It exempts gifts from relatives and transfers for hunting, target shooting and self-defense.
  • Eight Republicans joined 219 Democrats in voting for the bill.

The second bill (H.R. 1446), introduced by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the highest-ranking Black member of Congress, increases the review period of the initial background check from three to 10 days.

  • White supremacist Dylann Roof was able to purchase a gun, despite a criminal conviction, because of a clerical error that caused the FBI's background check to take longer than three days.
  • "A large majority of Americans, including gun owners, support universal background checks. This legislation is needed to keep weapons out of the hands of those who should not have them and save lives," Clyburn said in a statement.

The big picture: The U.S. gun violence epidemic has grown since the pandemic began, NBC News reports.

  • Gun violence and gun crime rose dramatically in 2020, with over 19,000 people killed in shootings and firearm-related incidents, per the Gun Violence Archive.
  • May 2020 saw the highest number (59) of mass shootings of any month since the Gun Violence Archive began tracking mass shooting data in 2013, the nonprofit said last year.

The bottom line: "We owe it to all those we’ve lost and to all those left behind to grieve to make a change,” Biden said in February while marking the anniversary of the Parkland school shooting. "The time to act is now."

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