UPDATE (03/11/21): The House has passed H.R. 8 with a final vote of 227-203, and H.R. 1446 with a final vote of 219-210. Both pieces of legislation now move to the Senate for consideration.
As mass shootings have become an epidemic reaching all corners of American society, it has never been more clear that our approach to gun policy and gun violence must change. One such necessary change is to close background check loopholes.
Two bills have been introduced that would make background checks nearly universal. Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) has introduced H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021. Currently, background checks are mandatory for commercial gun sales but not for purchases made through private sellers, at gun shows, or online. H.R. 8 would close the “gun show loophole” by mandating that all sellers run potential buyer information through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), including online and private sales. The bill maintains some exceptions for law enforcement officials, loans for hunting and sporting events, and for transfer between family members.
A second bill aimed at closing background check loopholes, H.R. 1446, has been introduced by Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC). The Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021 would end the “Charleston loophole,” a gap in the law that allows some gun sales to proceed without a completed background check, as was the case with mass murderer Dylann Roof. With some purchases, the FBI’s NISC system is unable to make an immediate determination on a buyer. Under current law, the FBI has three business days to continue to investigate the buyer. If the FBI has not concluded the investigation after 3 days, the seller has the discretion to sell the firearm despite the lack of a completed background check. H.R. 1446 would close this loophole.
Gun reform organizations estimate 20% or more of gun sales currently do not include a background check, illustrating the clear need for the new legislation. Public support for expanded background checks has risen to over 90%, proving now is the time for Congress to take action against rampant gun violence in our country.