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Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman March 11, 2021

House passes gun background check bills supported by Biden

The U.S. House of Representatives voted for a pair of bills to expand gun background checks to close loopholes, a priority for President Joe Biden that will face resistance in the Senate.

During the campaign, Biden promised to require universal gun background checks, including for online sales or by private sellers at gun shows.

The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021, H.R. 8, would require background checks before someone purchases or transfers a gun from a private seller. The prohibition has limited exceptions, such as a gift between spouses.

The bill passed 227-203 with eight Republicans joining all-but-one Democrat in support of the bill. Although the bill introduced by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif, had the word "bipartisan" in it's name, it only had three Republican cosponsors.

Under federal law currently, firearms dealers must be licensed. Licensees are prohibited from knowingly transferring any firearm to certain groups of people, including felons and people who were involuntarily committed to mental institutions. However, background checks are not generally required for private sales under federal law. Many states and Washington, D.C., have laws that require some sort of check on private sales for at least some kinds of firearms.

A separate bill, H.R. 1446, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021, passed 219-210. The bill gives federal law enforcement 10 days to do background checks prior to transferring a firearm to an unlicensed person, an increase from the current three days. 

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., introduced the legislation, which he said is intended to close the "Charleston loophole," a reference to Dylann Roof, who killed nine people at an African American church in 2015. Roof was able to buy the gun after reaching the three-day time limit.

On the anniversary of the Parkland shooting on Feb. 14, Biden called on Congress to require background checks on all gun sales, ban assault weapons and eliminate immunity for gun manufacturers.

"We owe it to all those we've lost and to all those left behind to grieve to make a change," Biden said. "The time to act is now."

The Office of Management and Budget said in a March 8 statement that the administration supports both bills to close existing loopholes in the background check process. 

Although polls have consistently shown that the public says it supports increased background checks, efforts to pass legislation stalled in recent years. Both measures are expected to face hurdles in the Senate, where 60 votes are required to break a potential filibuster.

We will continue to monitor the path of background check legislation, but for now we rate this promise In the Works.

RELATED: Buttigieg on point that majority of Republicans support background checks

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