A 2018 report found people in the United States own about 393 million guns. Gun purchases spike whenever gun rights advocates feel threatened — either by challenges to the Second Amendment or by societal upheaval. The COVID-19 pandemic, for example, provoked the largest spike of gun sales in U.S. history. Get ready for another run on guns.
Rep. Jim McGovern, chairman of the House Rules Committee and a Massachusetts Democrat, said, “We now have a Democratic Senate and a Democratic president, and I hope we can finally make these reforms a reality.”
This week, the House takes up two gun control bills that seek to tighten background checks on gun purchases. HR 1446 would expand the waiting period from three to 10 days and would close what gun control advocates call “the Charleston loophole.” It’s named for the depraved act of mass murderer Dylann Roof, who was able to purchase a handgun after three business days because an FBI background check that would have disqualified him was not yet completed. Many Republicans object to the bill, fearing it’s a de facto ban on purchases.
The second bill, HR 8, would require background checks for any firearm transaction, even the temporary loaning of a gun to a friend on an afternoon hunting trip. The bill offers exceptions to intrafamily transactions, but many Republicans fear the criminalization of innocent fun.
Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, said, “It applies whether the transfer is permanent, or if you’re just loaning your buddy a rifle, or his hunting trip. HR-8 would turn otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals simply because they transferred possession of illegal products that each of them are legally allowed to possess.”
Democrats believe modest reforms are due in a country awash in guns and gun violence.
“More than 230 people every day are shot and wounded . The U.S. gun homicide rate is 25 times than that of other high income countries,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat.
Numerous surveys have found roughly 9 in 10 people support some form of background checks. The National Rifle Association disputes those numbers, citing a background check ballot initiative in Washington state that was approved by 59% of voters and another in Maine, which was rejected by 52% of voters.
The bills will certainly pass in the House, as HR-8 did it over a year ago, and they face better chances in the Senate with Democrats in control. But their fate will hinge on how centrist Republicans like Susan Collins of Maine and centrist Democrats like Joe Manchin of West Virginia vote.