News and Commentary

House Judiciary Committee Democrats Target Private Gun Sales

On Wednesday, for the first time since retaking Congress’s junior legislative chamber, House Democrats advanced a concerted legislative effort to restrict the nation’s gun laws. The House Judiciary Committee, with Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) helping lead the charge, approved H.R. 8, known as the “Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019.” The bill advanced out of the Committee along a party-line vote of 25-13. The measure, which seeks to implement what gun control partisans on the Left often refer to as “universal background checks,” would expand background checks for firearm sales to also include private transfers.

Politico reports:

The legislation, which now heads to the House floor but stands virtually no chance in the Senate, makes good on Democrats’ promises to move swiftly to combat gun violence since taking control of the chamber this year. …

The measure would require virtually all purchasers of firearms to undergo a background check — including those buying through gun shows, over the Internet or through other private transactions.

Thursday is the anniversary of the school shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and spurred a national student movement in favor of increased gun control.

Even if it were to pass out of the full House, the bill faces nearly certain legislative death in the Republican-controlled Senate. While some blue state, pro-gun control Republicans such as Rep. Peter King (R-NY) have signed onto the measure, the overwhelming majority of congressional Republicans are generally reluctant to sign onto legislation opposed by Second Amendment supporters. Roll Call notes that, while Senate Democrats introduced a companion bill on Tuesday, the bill will face “stiff opposition” in the GOP-controlled upper chamber.

In addition to H.R. 8, House Judiciary Committee Democrats on Tuesday also unveiled a companion piece of legislation, H.R. 112, which would require a gun dealer to wait ten days — as opposed to the prevailing status quo of three days — to receive an answer from the federal government-managed National Instant Criminal Background Check System before proceeding with a legal sale. H.R. 112 passed the Committee by a slightly narrower margin of 21-14.

H.R. 8 is already staunchly opposed by many conservatives. Nate Madden at Conservative Review opines that, “What the legislation would actually do, in practice, is create a bureaucratic and cost barrier for private, law-abiding citizens who want to buy, sell, or trade firearms with other law-abiding citizens.” Many gun rights proponents argue that criminals and gun felons simply would not abide by the increased red tape, thus leading to law-abiding gun owners carrying the brunt of the increased legal burden and personal hassle.

H.R. 8 is hardly the first time that Congress has taken up the issue of expanding firearms background checks to private transfers, under the label of either “universal background checks” or ending the purported “gun show loophole.” In the aftermath of the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) introduced an amendment to a comprehensive gun control bill that would have required background checks on most private firearms transfers. The Manchin-Toomey amendment picked up 54 supporters in the Senate, but 60 votes were needed for cloture.