On Thursday, the House passed the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, which would institute a requirement for background checks before most transfers of guns between private individuals. Although licensed firearm sellers are already required to conduct background checks on prospective customers, the same requirement does not extend to private sellers, providing a clear potential for system manipulation. On Thursday, the background checks legislation passed the House with the support of eight Republicans, and with one Democrat voting against the bill, that left the final vote at 237 for and 203 against the legislation.
The law, which has the support of Biden’s administration, includes a requirement for “a licensed gun dealer, manufacturer, or importer” to hold onto the firearm during the imposed background check, and three Republicans, including Reps. Fred Upton (Mich.), Chris Smith (N.J.), and Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), also co-sponsored the legislation.
On the House floor on Wednesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) commented as follows:
‘We shouldn’t need a pandemic to reduce gun violence in this country. The way to do that ought to be through passing commonsense gun safety legislation through Congress to make it harder for deadly firearms to get into the hands of those who cannot bear them responsibly. That’s what H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, would do. Nine out of 10 Americans support the reforms in this bill. That includes a majority of Republicans and a majority of responsible gun owners. This is one of the greatest examples of legislation that truly reflects the will of the American people.’
Moving to a vote on the legislation in the Senate, where Democrats currently have control, would require 60 votes in the 100-member chamber — and with the Republican caucus at 50 members, they’re able to stop some legislation. There’s been talk among some Democrats of eliminating the procedural rule, sometimes known as the filibuster rule, that requires 60 votes to move to a vote on most legislation, but this idea has not yet caught on to the point necessary to actually make the move. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a conservative Democrat who opposes the complete elimination of the filibuster, recently suggested changing the procedure to make employing the filibuster more difficult.
An expansion of background checks for gun sales isn’t the only popular agenda item that Republicans have lined up to block. Not a single Republican in Congress voted in favor of recent COVID-19 relief legislation, despite the fact that the relief garnered the support of 75 percent of total respondents in a recent Morning Consult survey. 75 percent!