Dems Rush to Tighten Background Check Safety Valve
A House bill that seems ready to be muscled through a Democrat-controlled Congress could greatly extend firearm background check delay periods.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn reintroduced his “Enhanced Background Checks Act” on Monday. Most importantly, instead of milling through the lengthy committee process like normal legislation, Clyburn's office says the chamber is expected to vote on the measure as soon as next week.
"Enacting common-sense gun control measures is a priority for President Biden and this Democratic Congress, and this legislation is a good first step,” Clyburn said in a statement. “A large majority of Americans, including gun owners, support universal background checks. This legislation is needed to keep weapons out of the hands of those who should not have them and save lives."
Clyburn’s bill, introduced as H.R. 1446, would extend the initial background check review period from the current three-day period to "no fewer than 10 business days." After that initial period, if a check is still pending, the affected gun buyer could ask the FBI for an "escalated review" to complete the investigation. If the escalated review is not completed within another 10 days, then the transfer could finally proceed.
Under today's guidelines, federal firearms licensee at their discretion can use what is referred to as the "default to proceed" process and allow a gun to transfer if a pending check is not completed – under the guise of the "instant" part of the National Instant Background System. A sort of safety valve to prevent would-be gun buyers from being in background check limbo forever. Clyburn’s proposal would extend the waiting period in the case of pending delays to at least 20 business days before a sale may proceed – in effect denying the otherwise lawful transfer for as long as a month.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearm industry trade association, says that if the bill is a mirror of the one Clyburn has pushed in the past, they will be as opposed to it now as they were then.
"This bill increases the burden on small business firearm retailer owners and flips the burden of proof on its head," said Lawrence G. Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for NSSF. "This would make it incumbent upon the law-abiding citizen to prove his or her innocence to the government to exercise their Second Amendment right to purchase a firearm instead of the government being responsible for proving an individual is prohibited."
Meanwhile, national anti-gun groups backed by billionaire former Democratic Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg are excited about H.R. 1446.
“We could have addressed this deadly loophole years ago, but then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stood with the NRA to block this bill from ever getting a vote on the Senate floor," said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. "Fortunately, there’s a new majority in town – and we look forward to working with Whip Clyburn and the House of Representatives to finish the job we started last Congress."
Clyburn’s bill has 60 partisan co-sponsors in the House while Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT, is introducing companion legislation in the Senate. Currently referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary, it could be on the floor as early as next week, possibly without debate.