A pair of measures aimed at outlawing person-to-person gun sales without a background check and closing the safety valve on delayed checks passed the U.S. House on Thursday.
Approved by the Democrat-controlled chamber with a smattering of Republicans crossing the aisle to give the bills a veneer of bipartisanship were H.R. 8 and H.R. 1446. The proposals earned a slim majority, passing 219-210 and 206-204, respectively.
The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021, H.R. 8, would prohibit a firearm transfer between private parties unless a licensed gun dealer, manufacturer, or importer first takes possession of the firearm and conducts a background check. Some transfers, such as gifts between spouses, can proceed without checks but in general face-to-face gun sales without a dealer acting as a third party for a check would be illegal.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, head of the chamber and the top Dem in the House, claimed in a floor speech this week that a tremendous amount of gun sales occurred without background checks.
"As a result, up to 80 percent of firearms, because of gun shows, online sales, and the rest, 80 percent of firearms are sold or transferred without completed background checks," she said.
Rep. Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican and chair of the House Second Amendment Caucus, had a far different take on the number of sales involved that led to guns being transferred to criminals.
"They want to expand background checks, but what do background checks accomplish?" he asked, citing a GAO report on the DJO statistics on background checks. "Well, the DOJ said there were 112,000 denials in a year. Who are those 112,000 people? Well, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle would have you think those were felons. They saved you from those felons. But how many of those 112,000 were prosecuted for that crime of trying to acquire that gun? According to the DOJ, 12 -- one, two -- 12 in a year."
Pro-2A groups have long held that so-called “universal” background checks, cannot be enforced without a federal gun registry and that, by definition, a registry eventually leads to confiscation.
Longer delay times.
The second measure, H.R. 1446, would close the so-called "Charleston Loophole," which is not a loophole at all but was an important safety valve installed in the Brady program to allow guns to be legally transferred in cases where an "instant" background check is delayed past an unrealistic time frame. Under current law, a licensed gun dealer can elect to transfer a firearm to an individual who has had a delayed background check stretching more than three days.
The proposal approved this week would stretch this time period to at least 10 business days, at which point the individual would be able to petition for an expedited check that could stretch for another 10 business days. At the end of that period, if the FFL is willing, the gun could be transferred.
Rep. Clay Higgins, R-LA, took lawmakers to task by saying the liberal gun-control measures will not stop criminals from acquiring firearms, and only punish law-abiding citizens by impeding their right to keep and bear arms.
"Criminals are not going to follow these laws," said Higgins, a former high-profile deputy sheriff. "You're talking about 10 days? I can have a 10-minute Uber ride from right here and bring you back an illegal gun. You want one, a couple of hundred bucks, I can get you one. It is not intellectually sound to actually believe in your heart that restricting the Second Amendment rights and freedoms to purchase and own and bear firearms of Americans that will follow the laws you intend to pass is going to impact the decisions that are made by criminals on the street. It's just not reality, man."
The measures are now headed to the Senate, where Dems hold a razor-thin control and some Republicans, namely Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, has long supported expanded background check bills.