House Dems Unveil Bill To Expand Background Checks On Guns

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On Tuesday, January 8 — the anniversary of a mass shooting that occurred in Tuscon, Arizona — Democrats in the House of Representatives unveiled a new bill that seeks to address the issue of background checks on all gun sales.

Presently, not every gun sale requires a background check. According to one study conducted in 2017, more than 1-in-5 of the most recent gun purchases by gun owners across the country were conducted without looking into the background of the buyer, according to reporting from the Center for American Progress.

Many individuals who are prohibited from buying guns, such as violent felons and others, could feasibly do so while skirting the background check system that’s put in place to prevent them from getting a weapon.

The bill submitted by Democrats on Tuesday sought to address that gap by requiring every gun transfer — including private sales online or at gun shows as well as gifts from friends or family members — be subjected to a background check. Individuals who are not licensed dealers, for instance, would be required to bring their gun to someone who was.

“Today is a day of action. We say, ‘Enough is enough,'” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said on Tuesday, according to reporting from NBC News.

Pelosi was joined by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was the victim of a mass shooting incident in Tuscon, Arizona, in 2011. Giffords narrowly survived the event, which saw six other individuals killed and dozens more injured.

“Now is the time to come together, be responsible. We must never stop fighting,” Giffords said at the unveiling of the bill. “Fight, fight, fight.”

The bill faces many challenges preventing it from becoming law.

The Senate, which must also approve the bill, also saw Democrats in that chamber submit a similar proposal on Tuesday. However, that chamber of Congress is currently led by Republicans, which have historically opposed measures to tighten gun restrictions in recent years.

As recently as last month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) made clear that he was not willing to do much on the issue.

“I don’t think at the federal level there’s much that we can do other than appropriate funds,” he said at an event in Kentucky late in December, per reporting from the Daily Beast. He further added that gun laws are “basically a local decision.”

Gun deaths for 2017, the most recent year for which there is data on the issue, found that almost 40,000 people died from firearm-related injuries last year, the highest year on record since 1968, according to a report from the New York Times.