IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

House advances bills to expand background checks for gun sales, Senate passage unlikely

The House passed the gun control measures in 2019, but the Republican majority in the Senate blocked them.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer depart after they signed the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill during a bill enrollment ceremony in Washington on March 10, 2021.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer after they signed the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill on Wednesday.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The House passed a pair of bills Thursday morning that would expand background checks for gun purchases, which Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., vowed to put to a vote.

One of the bills, which passed 227-203, would require background checks on nearly all gun purchases, including transactions involving unlicensed or private sellers. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., chairman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, advanced with support from eight Republicans, including Vern Buchanan, Carlos Gimenez and Maria Salazar of Florida, and opposition from one Democrat, Jared Golden, of Maine.

The other measure would aim to close the “Charleston loophole," which allows the sale of a firearm to proceed if a background check isn’t completed within three days, by expanding the review period to 10 days. The bill, which passed in a 219-210 vote, was sponsored by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., who first introduced it after the June 2015 mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.

The House passed both gun-control bills in Feb. 2019, but the Republican majority blocked them in the Senate.

Democrats said there's public support for background checks for gun purchases.

“So we hope that with the big, strong bipartisan vote we have today to send it over to the Senate and the drumbeat across America that the change will come,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said at a morning press conference.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said the two bills would save many thousands of lives.

“For that, we have a moral duty to pass it. We have a political duty to pass it given the polling. And if Republicans stand in the way, they'll pay a price both morally and politically,” he said.

Schumer said that the last time they were passed, the bills landed in then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s “legislative graveyard” — but that time is now over.

The legislation “will be on the floor of the Senate, and we will see where everybody stands," Schumer said. "No more hopes and prayers, thoughts and prayers. A vote is what we need — a vote — not thoughts and prayers. And we will see where people stand, and maybe we'll get the votes.”

Democrats hold a razor-thin majority in the Senate and need 60 votes to advance most legislation. With all Democrats in favor of the bills, they would need the support of at least 10 Senate Republicans — unlikely for the measures in their current form.