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House passes universal background check bill for all gun sales

The Maxwell Base Exchange firearms counter, on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. (Senior Airman Tammie Ramsouer/U.S. Air Force)
February 28, 2019

The largest gun control bill in 25 years that would require universal background checks for nearly all gun sales has been approved by the House of Representatives.

The Democrat-controlled House approved the bill, H.R. 8, with a 240 to 190 vote on Wednesday in an effort to create greater restrictions on gun transfers that some politicians believe would reduce gun violence.

H.R. 8 seeks to impose background checks on nearly all private gun transfers. The bill would force everyday gun owners to use a third party retailer or other licensed entity to oversee government procedures that would be mandated for the transfer of their private guns.

The bill does not currently provide exemptions that would authorize temporary transfers of guns, such as leaving a gun in someone else’s care during travels.

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“What it would do is make criminals out of law-abiding citizens,” said Republican House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. “If you go hunting with a friend and your friend wants to borrow your rifle, you better bring your attorney with you because depending on what you do with that gun you may be a felon if you loan it to him.”

Democrats maintain that the bill will save lives.

“For six-and-a-half years, we had no cooperation from the past [House] majority” said Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson. “We couldn’t get a hearing on the bill. We couldn’t get a vote. Today, we’re here to tell you it’s a new day. With this majority, we have made a commitment to address the issue of gun violence.”

The bill included a last-minute amendment introduced by Republicans, much to the Democrats’ disapproval.

The amendment requires notification to specific law enforcement agencies when an individual fails a background check, and would require Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to be notified upon the failed background check of an illegal immigrant.

The amendment was previously rejected by Democrats while the bill was in committee, but Republicans were able to push it through using a “motion to recommit,” which exposed sharp tensions and division among Democrats when 26 of them supported it, The Hill reported.

While the Democrats like House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi are claiming the bill’s passage is a “historic victory,” the bill likely won’t overcome the hurdle of the Republican-controlled Senate or the veto power of President Donald Trump.

The White House on Monday issued a statement of administration policy and took aim at House bill H.R. 8, calling it “incompatible with the Second Amendment’s guarantee of an individual right to keep arms.”

“H.R. 8 would require that certain transfers, loans, gifts, and sales of firearms be processed by a federally licensed importer, manufacturer, or dealer of firearms. H.R. 8 would therefore impose permanent record-keeping requirements and limitless fees on these everyday transactions,” the White House noted.

The statement added that if H.R. 8 makes it to President Trump’s desk, “his advisors would recommend he veto the bill.”