House passes second major gun control bill in as many days
The U.S. House on Thursday passed its second major gun control bill in as many days, advancing a measure that would require gun dealers to wait 10 days to receive a response from the background check system before selling a firearm.
The legislation advanced by a vote of 228 to 198, with three Republicans joining Democrats in support of the bill. On Wednesday, the chamber advanced a measure that would require background checks for all commercial gun sales, including those sold online and at gun shows. The two bills mark the first time in almost 25 years that gun control proposals have cleared the House. The last bill to do so was the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act in 1994.
Thursday’s bill would do away with the “Charleston loophole,” a reference to the mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015, in which white supremacist Dylann Roof shot and killed nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The loophole allows a gun to be sold if a background check isn’t finished within three business days. In Roof’s case, if the FBI had cleared the background check, the sale would have been blocked due to his past history of drug possession.
Democrats argued that Charleston was not an isolated incident. According to FBI data, in 2017, more than 6,000 guns were sold to people with criminal histories or other factors that should have prevented them from buying a gun had the FBI completed the background checks before the three-day deadline. That number is a significant increase from 2016, which saw the sale of more than 4,100 guns to such people.
A recent investigation by ThinkProgress found that, in 2017, the FBI was unable to complete 310,232 gun background checks within the three-day deadline.
Despite these statistics, Republicans said the bill goes too far, arguing that Roof’s ability to obtain a gun was the the fault of the FBI, not the law.
“Here we go again,” Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) said during floor debate Thursday, before going on to argue that the measure could force law-abiding citizens to wait long periods before they can obtain guns to defend themselves. “This bill would empower abusers and violent predators by making their victims more vulnerable.”
Both bills seem to face tough odds in the Republican-controlled Senate, but advocates told ThinkProgress that they are hopeful they can secure a vote in the chamber. They cited widespread public support and the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) dwindling popularity as key reasons why the bills have had success this year.
“The NRA has become toxic,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “An ‘A’ rating [from the NRA] is a scarlet letter now. It is not a badge of honor.”
President Donald Trump is expected to veto the measures, although advocates believe they can convince the president not to.
Max Samis, spokesperson for Brady (formerly known as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence), told ThinkProgress via email that the House votes are only the beginning of a long fight against gun violence.
Thursday’s vote is “a milestone achievement to narrow the ‘Charleston loophole,’” he said. “Banning high-capacity magazines and assault-style weapons, closing the ‘boyfriend loophole’ that allows domestic abusers to obtain guns, and passing extreme risk legislation are all common-sense steps that have widespread support.”
This is the “first step,” Watts added, referring to Wednesday’s background check bill. “And when this bills passes, there will be many more to pass.”