House Passes Two Gun Bills to Broaden Background Checks

On Thursday, lawmakers passed two gun bills aimed at strengthening laws on background checks. But neither is expected to get past the Senate, where they will need 60 votes to get to the president to sign.

The first bill, called The Bipartisan Background Checks Act (H.R. 8) would require universal background checks on all commercial gun sales. It passed by a 227-203 vote and had Republican support and co-sponsors.

The other bill would close the “Charleston loophole” by extending the time allotted for background checks. The loophole allowed Dylann Roof to purchase the gun he used to murder nine churchgoers in 2015. The new measure, which passed mostly along party lines 219-210, would lengthen the review time for background checks from 3 days to as many as 20.

“The gun violence crisis in America is a challenge to the conscience of our country—one that demands that we act,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is holding out hope that H.R. 8 will have a fighting chance now that Republican Senator Mitch McConnell is no longer in charge.

“Last time, it went into Mitch McConnell’s legislative graveyard,” Schumer said during a Thursday press conference. “The legislative graveyard is over. H.R. 8 will be on the floor of the Senate, and we will see where everybody stands. No more thought and prayers—a vote is what we need.”

Unsurprisingly, the National Rifle Association blasted both bills, saying that the legislation punishes “law-abiding Americans.”

“These bills are a transparent attempt by gun control advocates in Congress to restrict the rights of law-abiding Americans under the guise of addressing the violent criminal culture in America,” Jason Ouimet, head of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement to NPR.

But the pushback from Republicans flies in the face of public opinion. According to a new Morning Consult poll, an overwhelming majority of Republican voters, 77 percent, support background checks.

Gun control groups have endorsed the legislation, including Everytown for Gun Safety, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Giffords, an organization run by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot by a man at a public event in 2011.

“H.R. 8 is a symbol of all that our nation has lost to the gun violence epidemic—and all we stand to gain by ending it,” Giffords tweeted in support of the bill on Thursday. “We can be a safer, healthier, more just nation. We can protect our children and raise a generation free from the fear of gun violence. It’s time to choose hope and courage over despair and fear.”