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Two gun bills for law and order go to the Senate

Two gun bills for law and order go to the Senate
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Democrats are finally addressing the enormous problem of gun violence in the U.S., after neglect during the Trump administration. On March 11, the Democrats passed two important bills in the House. Rep. Mike ThompsonCharles (Mike) Michael ThompsonGiffords group unveils gun violence memorial on National Mall Democrats urge Biden to take executive action on assault-style firearms Democrats have a growing tax problem with SALT MORE’s (D-Calif.) H.R. 8 strengthens the existing Brady background check law by closing the “private sales loophole.” Currently, only federally licensed gun dealers are required to conduct background checks on gun buyers. But H.R. 8 requires background checks on gun sales by private unlicensed sellers, including sales made online or at gun shows.

H.R. 8 is as attempt to improve enforcement of existing law. The “private sales” loophole that H.R. 8 would close, contributes to the death or injury of thousands of Americans every year. Currently, about one in five gun sales or transfers is done with no background check. That is partly because background checks have not been required on gun sales made by private sellers. Many dangerous illegal purchasers, such as convicted felons, domestic abusers, and other “prohibited persons” exploit this loophole.

Americans overwhelmingly support fixing the problem. According to a poll released on March 10, 84 percent of voters — including over three-quarters of Republicans and 82 percent of Independents — support a law requiring background checks for all firearm purchases.

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The other bill passed by the House, Rep. Jim ClyburnJames (Jim) Enos ClyburnPolice reform talks hit familiar stumbling block GOP divided over expected Cheney ouster Sunday shows - White House COVID-19 response coordinator says US is 'turning the corner' MORE’s (D-S.C.) H.R. 1446, extends the time period the FBI has to determine whether a buyer is qualified to purchase a gun. Currently, after only three days, a gun dealer can transfer the gun even if the check has not been completed. H.R. 1446 extends that time to ten days. The short three-day deadline enabled the man who murdered nine people at the A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., to get a gun when he shouldn’t have been able to. 

The problem that these bills address is enormous and has recently been getting worse. More than 300 people are shot and over 100 are killed with firearms a day in the U.S. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when Americans had to shelter at home, businesses closed and people lost their jobs. People grew frustrated, angry, and fearful, and bought record numbers of guns. Rates of gun suicide and gun homicide soared. A study by Richard Rosenfeld, a professor at University of Missouri-St. Louis, found that in 20 major American cities during the summer of 2020, homicides increased by an average of 53 percent.

When Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Biden, Senate GOP take step toward infrastructure deal as other plans hit speed bumps Senate GOP to give Biden infrastructure counteroffer next week Masks shed at White House; McConnell: 'Free at last' MORE (R-Ky.) was Senate Majority Leader, he wouldn’t let gun safety bills be considered, so Senators did not have to go on record helping the gun industry sell guns to dangerous people who couldn’t pass a background check. But the leadership of the Senate has changed hands. Now, Republicans and Democrats who vote with the gun lobby against public safety can be held accountable.

Change is coming. 

Until recently, people seemed to think that illegal access to guns by felons and other “prohibited persons” was inevitable. But guns don’t grow on trees or in backyards. Gun companies — large or small — make and sell them. A lot of the money they get goes to legislators who keep loopholes like these open. That’s an important reason why firearms are the leading cause of death of Americans under age 20. No wonder many young people are now joining Brady’s Team Enough and the Parkland students to demand that we keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.

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One of my friends, a Republican from conservative Orange County whose son was killed by a teen who shouldn’t have been able to get the gun, says she remembers when Republicans were for law and order. Even the gun lobby used to say: Just enforce the laws. Well, H.R. 8 and H.R. 1446 are about better enforcement of our laws. Now we’ll see which legislators are for law and order and public safety, and which ones are just for helping the gun industry profit.

The Democrats may focus on H.R. 8 first. It’s encouraging that in the House, eight Republicans voted for it. The debate in the Senate will be contentious, with many misleading statements made in opposition. How Senators vote will be an important issue in the 2022 and 2024 elections.

Griffin Dix, Ph.D., is president of the Oakland/Alameda County (Calif.) Brady chapter and served on the Brady Board of Trustees from 2006 through 2008. He was research director at MacWEEK. His 15-year-old son was shot and killed in 1994 in an unintentional shooting with a gun that was stored unlocked and loaded. Since his son was killed, Dix has worked with a coalition that has helped to pass many state laws to prevent gun violence, including laws establishing semiautomatic handgun product safety standards. He is writing a memoir about the loss of his son, his lawsuit against Beretta USA and his work on gun violence prevention. Follow him on Twitter @griffindix.