On Friday, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) sent out the following tweet regarding the Virginia Beach shooting:
We are nearly 100 days since @HouseJudiciary passed #HR8, the universal background checks bill, in the House and today there has been another mass shooting in America. Thoughts and prayers are not enough, we need action now. #EnoughIsEnough #EndGunViolence
The tweet has nearly 13,000 “likes,” and has been retweeted 5,300 times.
According to CBS News, the Virginia Beach gunman used two .45 caliber handguns in his rampage.
During a press conference on Saturday, ATF Special Agent in Charge Ashan Benedict stated that the guns appear to have been purchased legally:
Working with Virginia Beach Police Department, State Police, and our partners with the FBI, we identified two weapons used in the shooting yesterday. Both weapons are .45 caliber pistols. One was purchased in 2016; one was purchased in 2018. Both pistols were purchased by the shooter, and all indications are they were purchased legally.
In addition, ATF agents assisted local police with the search warrant at the shooter’s residence. Two other firearms were recovered from that location. One of the two has been identified, and of the one that has been identified, it also was legally purchased by the shooter.
Given the information that has been provided to the public, namely that the shooter appears to have purchased both of his firearms legally, it’s impossible to know whether or not the “universal background checks bill,” or HR8, mentioned by Rep. Nadler would have done anything to prevent the Virginia Beach shooting.
The text of HR8 reads in part:
(A) It shall be unlawful for any person who is not a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer to transfer a firearm to any other person who is not so licensed, unless a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer has first taken possession of the firearm for the purpose of complying with subsection (s).
(B) Upon taking possession of a firearm under subparagraph (A), a licensee shall comply with all requirements of this chapter as if the licensee were transferring the firearm from the inventory of the licensee to the unlicensed transferee.
The purpose of the legislation, as described by the bill summary, is to “[prohibit] a firearm transfer between private parties unless a licensed gun dealer, manufacturer, or importer first takes possession of the firearm to conduct a background check.”
According to a 2015 survey conducted by Matthew Miller, MD, ScD, Lisa Hepburn, PhD, and Deborah Azrael, PhD: “Among gun owners who acquired their most recent firearm within the past 2 years by way of purchase, 13% (CI, 8% to 18%) did so without a background check.”
As of publication, it’s not known if the shooter purchased his guns from a licensed firearms dealer, thereby undergoing a background check, or if he purchased them from a seller currently exempt from the requirements of a licensed dealer. However, even if a “universal background check” law were in place, it cannot be concluded, given the publicly available evidence at this time, that the shooter would have been prevented from legally purchasing the firearms used in the massacre.
Despite the abundance of unknown factors at play in the ongoing investigation, Rep. Nadler used his platform to argue for the passing of legislation the result of which might not have done anything to hinder the Virginia Beach shooting.