The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday advanced legislation that would expand current background check requirements to cover virtually all gun sales, putting it on track for consideration on the House floor.
House Democrats cast the measure as a good first step that would prevent more dangerous people from getting guns, and said this week’s first anniversary of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting should be an impetus to act.
“I ask that we work together — not as Democrats and Republicans, but as Americans — to end [the] silence with action to make all our communities safer from gun violence,” Rep. Ted Deutch, Florida Democrat, said on the House floor as he led a moment of silence for the 17 victims who were killed in the shooting. “I ask that this moment of silence not be in vain.”
Those directly affected by the Parkland tragedy say they’re committed to moving the ball forward on gun control, after years of inaction at the federal level.
“We should all be able to send our kids and loved ones off to school knowing they’ll come home at night,” said Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. “Together, we must commit to ending gun violence so that no other family has to live through this experience.”
Lawmakers also announced plans to offer more gun-related legislation Thursday, the Parkland-shooting anniversary.
Those bills include a measure that would raise the minimum purchasing age for any firearm, including rifles, from 18 to 21, and another that would encourage states to allow for “extreme risk” protection orders to take guns away temporarily from someone who’s judged a danger to themselves or others.
As for the background check bill that advanced Wednesday, Democrats said it was needed to close current loopholes.
Right now, only federally licensed dealers are required to perform the checks run through the FBI’s national instant check system.
“One of the most important things we can do to address this epidemic of gun violence is to enact universal background checks,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat.
Mr. Nadler said the legislation would make it illegal for anyone who isn’t a licensed gun importer, manufacturer or dealer to transfer a firearm to someone who isn’t licensed without running a background check. There are exemptions, including for transactions such as gifts to family members and transfers for hunting and target shooting.
But Republicans said that without a national gun registry, which conservatives staunchly oppose, the new law would be almost impossible to enforce. They also said the bill would do little to prevent future mass shootings.
“Our Democrat friends are perpetrating a fraud on the activists who support them,” said Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the judiciary committee. “They’re peddling false hope to both activists and victims of violence.”
Democrats on the committee turned aside a number of proposed amendments from Republicans, including provisions that would exempt concealed weapons permit holders from the new requirements and bolster the ability for individuals to petition the government to restore their gun rights.
The panel also advanced legislation intended to close the so-called “Charleston loophole.” The bill would extend the amount of time a gun dealer has to wait for an answer from the FBI on whether a purchaser has a prohibiting record before approving the sale.
That bill, pushed by House Majority Whip James Clyburn, comes in the wake of a massacre at a South Carolina church in 2015 in which nine people were killed.
Gunman Dylann Roof was able to acquire a gun ahead of the shooting despite a prior drug-related arrest.