Bi-partisan background check bill introduced in U.S. House

It’s been a few years since a bi-partisan attempt at passing a universal background check system has seen the light of day, but a coalition within the U.S. House of Representatives comprised of members from both sides of the aisle is giving it another shot.

A bill was introduced in the House on Wednesday which aims to close background check loopholes in the purchase of firearms in the country, officials said.

Written by representatives Pete King, R-New York, and Mike Thompson, D-California, HR 1217 will expand the background check system to encompass the commercial sale of all firearms, including those sold at gun shows, through the Internet and in classified ads.

It will strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System by incentivizing states to improve their reporting through federal grand dollars, includes exceptions for family and friend transfers and will form a commission to examine incidents of mass violence in the country, according to a press release from Thompson’s office.  

The Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act of 2015 is identical to the Manchin-Toomey bill that failed in 2013 in that proponents say it’s meant to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. The National Rifle Association has said a universal background check system would put an undo burden on law-abiding gun owners.

The group had a similar quarrel with the other bi-partisan attempt at background check legislation, drafted by West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.

An article referencing the NRA’s involvement in that effort quickly drew vitriol from the gun rights group the same day it was published.

“NRA does NOT support universal background checks and is not working with Manchin to implement this type of legislation. NRA opposes, and will continue to oppose, universal background checks and registration schemes,” The NRA’s Chris Cox wrote in a 2013 statement.   

Thompson and King were both given Ds on the NRA’s Political Victory Fund report card – a system that rates political candidates on their voting record as it pertains to gun rights issues – during the last election cycle.

Both Thompson and King voted against an amendment in 2014 that passed the House by a 60-point margin and would prohibit the District of Columbia from implementing certain firearm laws, according to Project Vote Smart, a nonpartisan political research organization. The two also voted against a concealed carry reciprocity bill in 2011, which passed the House by 118 votes and went to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. In 2010, when a bill was introduced exempting guns from an estate for bankruptcy proceedings, the two voted in support.

That’s not to say the two have always seen eye-to-eye on gun-related legislation. In 2008, while Thompson voted in favor of killing portions of the D.C. firearm ban – namely, with the repeal of both the registration requirement and ammunition ban, in addition to the removal of criminal penalties for possession of unregistered firearms – King opposed the repeals bill, according to political data.

A few years earlier, Thompson supported a bill seeking to reform the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, while King voted against it. The same year, 2006, the two took the same positions on an amendment to prevent funds for trigger lock enforcement.

Because King has shown he’s willing to reach across the aisle, it’s no surprise the NRA has given him such a poor political score. The New York native has said he’s considering a bid in the 2016 presidential race, if only to keep isolationist Republicans like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and  Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas from taking his party away from what he called realistic foreign policy and national security priorities.

The new background check legislation was co-authored by a bipartisan House coalition made up of representatives Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pennsylvania, Pat Meehan, R-Pennsylvania, Bob Dold, R-Illinois, Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, Elizabeth Esty, D-Connecticut and Kathleen Rice, D-New York.

Thompson, King and the NRA could not be reached for comment by article publication.