Law & the Courts

House Passes Bill Requiring Background Check for All Gun Purchases

(Steve Marcus/REUTERS)

The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill that would require all would-be gun buyers, including those who wish to enter into private transactions, to undergo a federal criminal-background check.

The Bipartisan Background Checks Act, which would require that prospective gun owners submit to a background check before being gifted a firearm or purchasing one from a private seller, passed the Democrat-controlled House 240–190 with the support of eight Republicans.

The bill, introduced by Democrat Mike Thompson of California and Republican Peter King of New York, would represent the most significant gun-control measure in decades if passed, but it is sure to encounter opposition from the Republican-controlled Senate and President Trump.

Just moments before the Wednesday vote, Republicans successfully amended the legislation to include a provision that would require gun sellers to alert Immigration and Customs Enforcement if an illegal immigrant attempts to purchase a gun.

Proponents of the legislation, including Representative Jerry Nadler (D., N.Y.), argue that it will help prevent mentally ill Americans from purchasing guns and, as a result, will reduce mass shootings in schools and other public venues.

“There’s no reason to continue to make it easy for people who are legally prohibited from possessing firearms to acquire them by circumventing the background-check process,” Nadler said on the House floor before the vote. “H.R. 8 would close this dangerous loophole and save many, many lives.”

Critics of the bill have pointed out that it would not have prevented many of the recent mass shootings that were carried out by individuals who either had no criminal background or stole the firearm they used from a family member.

Representative Steve Scalise (R., La.), who sustained life-threatening injuries after being shot during a practice for the annual Congressional baseball game two years ago, argued that the bill would jeopardize lawful gun owners’ ability to trade and gift their firearms in a video message disseminated by the National Rifle Association.

In the video, Scalise refers to H.R. 112, which would provide the FBI with more time to complete a background check on a gun buyer. Under current law, a gun retailer can make a sale if they have not heard back from the FBI regarding a purchaser’s background check within three days. The House is expected to vote on that bill on Thursday.

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