A House vote scheduled for this week could change the way federal background checks on gun purchases are conducted.
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The bill, called the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, would require a federal background check on all gun sales, not just sales made at a gun shop.
The bill’s sponsors hope that measure will close the so-called gun show loophole that allows someone to purchase a firearm through a private seller, including firearms sold at gun shows, without going through a background check.
“Too many families in too many places have endured the heartbreak of gun violence — and for far too long, the Congress has failed to take action to end this senseless pain,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said in a statement.
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“This long-overdue bill respects the will of the American people, 97 percent of whom support universal background checks, and respects our obligations to the survivors and families of gun violence.”
What would the bill do?
Current federal law requires licensed firearms dealers to run background checks before selling a firearm, whether they sell a firearm from a gun shop or at a gun show.
A background check is not required for sales or transfer of firearms from someone who is not a licensed firearms dealer – such as someone who offers a gun for sale online or who sells firearms at gun shows.
The Bipartisan Background Checks Act would require a background check for every gun sale in the country, including sales made at gun shows or between those who meet up online to buy and sell firearms.
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Some states already require background checks when firearms are transferred between private parties. This legislation would require anyone who is transferring a gun to another person to have a background check carried out on that person by a licensed firearms dealer.
What about transfers of guns between family members?
The bill grants exemptions for gifts of a gun between family members. It also allows for temporary transfers for use hunting or at a firearms range.
There is a second gun bill that could come up for a vote, what does that one propose?
The second gun-sale bill Congress could address this week -- The Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019 -- would lengthen the review period for purchasing a gun.
Current federal law requires that a background check be conducted over a three-day period. If the check is not completed by then, the sale can go forward without the results of the check.
The new legislation would extend the period over which the background check could be concluded from three days to 10 days. If the check is not completed in 10 days, the buyer can ask for a review, and a new 10-day clock would start. If another 10 days go by and the review is not complete, the sale can move forward,
According to that bill’s sponsor and co-sponsors – House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-South Carolina, Rep. Pete King, R-New York and Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-South Carolina -- the bill is intended to allow for more time for better communication between state and federal parties to make the background check more complete.
“In 2016 alone, 4,000 firearms passed into the hands of criminals or people who were mentally ill who should not have had those weapons and who would have been caught if there was an adequate amount of time to process their background checks,” Cunningham told reporters last week.
What are the chances the bill will make it to the president’s desk?
While it is called the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, only five House Republicans have said they will vote for the measure.
As of Monday, only King and Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pennsylvania, Brian Mast, R-Florida, Fred Upton, R-Michigan and Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, have said they will support the legislation.
"Our Democratic Majority will press relentlessly for bipartisan progress to end the epidemic of gun violence on our streets, in our schools and in our places of worship," Pelosi said in a statement. "Enough is enough."
Some House Republicans say the bill goes too far in changing the time allowed to get a background check finished.
"It essentially eliminates the three-day waiting period and imposes a 20-day waiting period for countless firearm purchasers," Rep. Doug Collins, R-Georgia, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, told Politico.
"Not only is the 20-day waiting period excessive, it is an onerous process that unduly burdens potential firearms purchasers."
The Democrats in the House do not need Republican votes to pass either bill. However, when it comes to the Senate,
Democrats would need four Republican votes for the bill to pass if all Democratic senators and the two Independent senators voted in favor of the legislation.
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