The House passed the historic American Rescue Plan on Wednesday, and on Thursday it’s moving ahead with another piece of important work: gun law reform. Two bills are coming up for a vote that would strengthen background checks in different ways.
The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021, which has a whopping three Republican sponsors—Reps. Fred Upton of Michigan, Chris Smith of New Jersey, and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania—would require background checks for all gun sales. That measure has 84% support, including from 77% of Republicans. That’s voters, of course. In the House, Republican leaders are whipping opposition to it.
How many Republicans will vote yes on a bill with 84% popular support? Eight of them. Universal background checks pass, 227 to 203, with one Democrat voting against.
The House votes 219 to 210 to close the Charleston loophole. Two Democrats voted against and two Republicans voted for.
The Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021, introduced by Rep. Jim Clyburn, would close the Charleston Loophole, which allowed white supremacist Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof to buy a gun he shouldn’t have been able to get. Currently, if an FBI background check isn’t completed in three days, a gun sale can go ahead.
”The fact that, that 72-hour time window is so short has caused many people who are, in fact, prohibited buyers to be able to purchase firearms,” Rep. Abigail Spanberger said.
Clyburn’s bill closes that loophole and extends the period before a sale can happen without a completed background check to 10 days. He spoke Wednesday on the House floor about Roof’s massacre at Charleston’s Mother Emanuel Church.
”These people who were practicing their faith, their faith that taught them to welcome in a stranger, a stranger came to their door and they welcomed into their Bible study, he sat with them for an hour,” Clyburn said. “The stranger that they had welcomed in had opened fire and killed nine of them, one of who was the pastor, a former intern of mine.”
And this law? “This law would have prevented that gentleman from getting a gun,” Clyburn said.
This bill has plurality but not majority support, with 48% in favor and 38% opposed—and obviously a significant number of people unsure.
Republican politicians are sure how they feel—and they’re willing to wildly misrepresent in service of their opposition. (What else is new.)
“Each of these bills is an affront to law-abiding Americans who lawfully possess firearms for sports or for self-defense,” Rep. Jim Jordan said Monday. “When taken together, these bills are an assault on the Second Amendment to the Constitution.” Except that these bills are literally about whether people who should not lawfully possess firearms can purchase them without background checks.
Republican opposition is unlikely to block the bills from passage in the House, where simple majority votes rule and Democrats have a majority, albeit a slim one. The Senate will be more difficult since this is one more area where Republicans can filibuster, unless Democrats get on board with reforming or abolishing the filibuster.
Consider it, though: A bill supported by three out of four Republican voters may not even get a final vote in the Senate thanks to Republican senators.
Rep. Lucy McBath, who came to prominence after her son Jordan was shot and killed and who campaigned on gun reform, is determined to try.
“We’re going to pass this bill in the House, and immediately I’m going to start calling the Senate and I’m going to start imploring to them,” she told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “They need to stand tall on this because people in your district are affected by gun violence as well, not just Democrats.”