The House is set to vote on two bills that would expand background checks on firearm sales, even though the legislation will likely stall in the Senate. These will be the first significant gun control measures considered by the House since President Biden took office, after he promised to enact legislation strengthening background checks during the presidential campaign.
The first bill under consideration is the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021, H.R. 8, introduced by Democratic Congressman Mike Thompson. It would establish background check requirements for gun sales between private parties, prohibiting transfers unless a licensed gun dealer, manufacturer or importer first takes possession of the firearm to conduct a background check. The legislation would not apply to certain transfers, such as a gift between spouses. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy has introduced the companion bill in the Senate.
The legislation is nominally bipartisan, with three Republican cosponsors: Representatives Fred Upton of Michigan, Christopher Smith of New Jersey and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania. GOP Congressman Jim Jordan unsuccessfully attempted to stall the vote on H.R. 8 on Thursday with a motion to recommit, which would have sent the bill back to the Judiciary Committee for further debate.
The second legislation to be considered by the House on Thursday is the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021, H.R. 1446. The bill, introduced by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, would close the so-called "Charleston loophole," which allows some gun sales to go through before background checks are completed. Under that loophole, Dylann Roof was able to purchase a firearm in 2015 which he then used to murder nine people at a historically Black church in South Carolina.
The bill would increase the amount of time firearm sellers must wait to receive a completed background check before transferring a firearm to an unlicensed buyer from three days to 10 days. This bill has no Republican cosponsors.
Even though the two bills are expected to pass in the House, they face a steep uphill climb in the Senate, where Democrats have a slim 50-seat majority. Most legislation requires 60 votes to advance in the Senate, so Democrats would need support from 10 Republicans to overcome a legislative filibuster. Many Republican lawmakers in the House have expressed opposition to these bills, arguing they infringe upon Second Amendment rights.
But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer indicated Thursday that he would bring gun control legislation to the Senate floor, even if it doesn't receive any Republican votes, to get senators on the record.
"H.R. 8 will be on the floor and we'll see where everybody stands," Schumer said during a press conference with Pelosi. "No more hopes and prayers."
The White House has said gun control legislation remains an important priority for the president. During a White House briefing last month, press secretary Jen Psaki said that Mr. Biden is "not afraid of standing up to the NRA — he's done it multiple times and won — on background checks and a range of issues."
"It is a priority to him on a personal level," Psaki said.