A group of Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. House announced today a bill that would “modernize” firearm purchasing by requiring “facilitators” of gun sales—such as gun show sellers and websites—to conduct background checks on all transactions.
The full text of the legislation has not been released, but according to a press release from the primary sponsor, Illinois Rep. Robin Kelly, the bill would also increase security requirements at gun shops, require reporting when a person purchases more than two rifles or shotguns in five consecutive days, and require annual inspections of “high risk” gun dealers.
Rep. Kelly blames her state’s skyrocketing crime rates on out-of-state guns and believes her bill will “hold rogue dealers accountable.”
“I’m introducing the Federal Firearms Licensee Act to hold rogue dealers accountable and ensure that we are able to adequately respond to the gun trafficking that is contributing to the deadly gun violence epidemic,” she says. “This legislation proposes commonsense security and gun sale tracing policies to ensure that FFLs are not contributing to the flow of guns into our communities.”
“Universal background checks” has been a priority of the anti-gun lobby for decades. Some states require a background check for all gun sales, but many allow private transactions to take place without a check being conducted.
In Texas, for example, private gun owners post their wares for sale on websites like GunsAmerica.com. Interested parties contact each other through the website, set up a meeting, and conduct the transaction.
Kelly’s bill would somehow require these websites to conduct background checks on all sales. Since the bill’s text has not been released, it’s unclear how the federal government would enforce such a requirement.
If enacted, however, it would require background checks on virtually all gun sales across the country. Most private sales between gun owners who aren’t family or friends are facilitated by these websites and forums. If GunsAmerica was required to conduct background checks just like an FFL, a large majority of these formerly private transactions would be checked by the government.
The mayors of some of America’s most crime-ridden cities have jumped on board. Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a sub-group of Everytown for Gun Safety, released a statement “applauding” Kelly’s new legislation.
“Gun violence is a plague on our communities, and allowing rogue gun dealers to skirt the rules we have in place undermines so much of the work we are doing to address this challenge in our city,” said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. “We need a way to enforce common sense rules that keep illegal guns out of the wrong hands and I commend Representative Kelly for leading the charge on this important work.”
If the bill comes up for a vote in the Democratic-controlled House before the next midterm election, it’s likely to pass. It will have a much steeper hill to climb in the Senate, where it would need the support of 10 Republicans to end up on President Joe Biden’s desk.