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House Democrats unveil bill expanding gun background checks

Despite polling indicating widespread public support for the concept, the gun control bill is unlikely to be considered in the Republican-controlled Senate.
The bill unveiled Tuesday would require individuals who are not licensed gun dealers to bring the weapon to an authorized vendor to conduct background checks of prospective purchasers.Nicholas Kamm / AFP - Getty Images
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By Rebecca Shabad

WASHINGTON — House Democrats on Tuesday introduced a measure that would expand background checks for selling and transferring ownership of firearms, their first move since taking the majority to tighten the nation's gun laws.

“Today is a day of action. We say, ‘Enough is enough,’” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., at an event highlighting the new bill on the eighth anniversary of the mass shooting in Tucson that left six people dead and more than a dozen injured, including former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz.

“Now is the time to come together, be responsible. We must never stop fighting," said Giffords at the event Tuesday. "Fight, fight, fight.”

The bill would require individuals who are not licensed gun dealers to bring the weapon to an authorized vendor to conduct background checks of prospective purchasers. The requirement would also apply to background checks for the sale or “transfer” of guns between family and friends.

Similar legislation introduced by Democrats while they were in House minority over the last eight years was never considered while Republicans were in control. Despite polling indicating widespread public support for the concept, the bill is unlikely to be considered in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Meanwhile, a group of Democratic senators introduced a similar bill Tuesday called the Background Check Expansion Act that would expand federal background checks to all gun sales, a requirement that would apply to unlicensed sellers when they do business at gun shows, online and out of their home.

In the years since the 2011 Tucson shooting, Congress has not taken any major action to address the issue despite an effort in the Democratic-controlled Senate in 2013, four months after the Newtown massacre, and a renewed national push to combat gun violence in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last year.

At the time, the Senate considered an amendment proposed by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., that would have required background checks on all commercial gun sales, but it failed to move forward despite a 54-46 vote in favor of the measure.

After the Las Vegas massacre in October 2017, Pelosi called on then-Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to establish a select committee to address gun violence. Democrats have not yet publicly suggested that they would do so now that they’re in the majority.

NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said Tuesday that the legislation would never be universal “because criminals do not comply with the law.”

“Instead of looking for effective solutions that will deal with root cause of violent crime and save lives, anti-gun politicians would rather score political points and push ineffective legislation that doesn’t stop criminals from committing crimes,” she said.

Rebecca Shabad

Rebecca Shabad is a congressional reporter for NBC News, based in Washington.

Leigh Ann Caldwell contributed.
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