A lot’s at stake this November. If the Democrats win the House — political forecaster FiveThrityEight gives Dems an 81 percent chance of taking control following the midterms — Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) promised that criminalizing private transfers will be a top legislative priority.
During a sit-down this week with U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-West Boca) of Florida, survivors of the Parkland massacre, and gun control activists, the House minority leader spoke about both the importance and political feasibility of enacting universal background checks.
“What saves what saves the most lives is the background checks — keeping guns out of the hands of people who should not have them, whatever the weaponry,” said Pelosi who also expressed support for banning modern sporting rifles in a video posted by the Sun-Sentinel.
Pelosi indicated that there was bipartisan support for universal background checks, which would make it unlawful for one private citizen to transfer or sell a firearm to another private citizen.
“The people will want us to consider what this bill will look like. We have a bill right now that is bipartisan,” Pelosi said explained. “This will be a collaboration and will be a consensus to have the bipartisanship we need to build on the legislation.”
The last bipartisan universal background check bill to gain steam in Congress was drafted by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA). Known as the Manchin-Toomey amendment, it was defeated in the Senate on April 17, 2013, falling six votes shy (54-46) of the 60 needed to overcome a Republican-led filibuster.
Nationwide 20 states have background check laws tougher than the federal standard, 11 of which criminalize private transfers for the sale of all firearms, according to the Giffords Law Center.
The National Rifle Association has vehemently opposed expanded background checks. In an NRA-ILA post dated August 8, 2016, the gun lobby laid out all the reasons to oppose amending the law:
- NRA opposes expanding firearm background check systems, because background checks don’t stop criminals from getting firearms, because some proposals to do so would deprive individuals of due process of law, and because NRA opposes firearm registration.
- Background checks don’t necessarily stop criminals from getting firearms. Federal studies have repeatedly found that persons imprisoned for firearm crimes get their firearms mostly through theft, the black market, or family members or friends. Less than one percent get guns at gun shows. (Bureau of Justice Statistics)
- Most mass shooters, including those inspired by Islamic terrorist groups, pass background checks to acquire firearms.
- ATF has said that nearly half of illegally trafficked firearms originate with “straw purchasers”—people who pass background checks to buy firearms for criminals. The terrorists who attacked in San Bernardino in 2015 allegedly got firearms from a straw purchaser who passed a background check.
- Federal law requires firearm dealers, regardless of location, to initiate a background check before selling or otherwise transferring a firearm to a person who is not a dealer.
- There is no “gun show loophole.” Federal law is the same, regardless of where a firearm sale takes place.
- There is no “online sales” loophole. Federal law is the same, regardless of how people communicate about selling/buying a firearm. Federal law prohibits anyone— licensed firearm dealer or not—from shipping a firearm to a person who lives in another state, unless that person is also a dealer. Dealers must document all firearms they receive.
- There is no “Charleston loophole.” The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has three days to determine whether a person is prohibited from acquiring a firearm, to prevent arbitrary delays. If the FBI thereafter determines the person is prohibited, ATF recovers any gun inappropriately transferred.