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What the “Universal Background Check” Bill Means for Gun Owners

Published: March 22, 2021
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Most hunters know that purchasing a firearm from a licensed dealer requires the purchaser to pass a background check conducted through the federal instant check system. In many states, however, purchasers can also buy guns in private transactions that do not require the buyer to pass a background check.

The United States House of Representatives passed legislation last week that would regulate these private sales in all 50 states. It’s being referred to as “The Universal Background Check” bill. The legislation allows family members to gift firearms to one another, but bans anyone from exchanging money for a gun without passing a background check.

The House also passed another bill that would give the Federal Bureau of Investigations more time to complete background checks that are delayed in the instant system.

Gun rights and gun control groups respectively blasted and applauded the legislation.

“These bills are a transparent attempt by gun control advocates in Congress to restrict the rights of law-abiding Americans under the guise of addressing the violent criminal culture in America. The truth, however, is that neither of these bills will do anything to solve that problem,” said Jason Ouimet, executive director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action.

Ouimet argues that enforcing the universal background check bill is impossible without a federal gun registry and does nothing but “turn otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals for simply loaning a firearm to friends or family members.​” He also holds that giving the FBI more time to complete background checks would allow “unelected government bureaucrats to indefinitely delay and prevent lawful firearm transfers.”

Everytown for Gun Safety, one of the nation’s largest gun safety groups, applauded the House and called on the Senate to pass the legislation as well.

“Gun violence is an epidemic within this pandemic, and the first step in addressing it is background checks on all gun sales,” said Everytown President John Feinblatt. “With the NRA sidelined by bankruptcy and a gun safety trifecta in Washington, we have a historic opportunity to pass this bipartisan legislation into law and save lives. Background checks are unfinished business for everyone in the gun safety movement, and now it’s time for the Senate to step up and do its part.”

The House passed the universal background check bill, H.R. 8, almost entirely along party lines. Of the 227 legislators who voted in favor, all but eight were Democrats.

The eight Republicans who voted for the bill did so for a variety of reasons. Florida Rep. Vern Buchanan voted for the bill to close the “gaping loophole” in current gun law. Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick was endorsed by the gun control group Giffords for his desire to address gun violence while protecting the Second Amendment. Florida Reps. Maria Elvira Salazar and Carlos A. Gimenez hail from purple districts that were only recently controlled by Democrats.

Only one Democrat voted against the legislation. Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) is a moderate who also voted against his party in opposing the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill.

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