Education News

4 Things to Know About the Bipartisan Background Checks Act

By Tim Walker

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives did something it hasn’t done in almost a generation: pass a federal gun safety law. On Wednesday, the full House passed, by a 240-190 vote, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act (H.R. 8), in the process taking a long overdue step in standing up to the gun lobby and getting around to the business of protecting our schools from gun violence.

What Exactly Does the Bill Do?

Under current law, only federally licensed vendors must conduct background checks. Private sellers are not required to do so. The Bipartisan Background Checks Act would require background checks in private sales, including gun shows and online transactions. The bill would ensure that all sales (with a few exceptions) are run through the national criminal background check system.

As two former GOP congressman, Ryan Costello and Carlos Curbelo, recently wrote in The Washington Post in support of the legislation: “This bill doesn’t take away anyone’s guns, create a firearms registry or threaten the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. … It represents a critical step in the right direction, at a time when more and more Americans are touched by gun violence.”

How Would It Reduce Gun Violence?

For the nation’s schools, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Since 2013, there have been at least 400 incidents of gunfire on school grounds, leading to 109 fatalities and 291 injuries. According to federal data, there were 94 gun incidents at U.S. schools in 2018, the most since the government began tracking the data in 1970.

If signed into law, a bill requiring background checks could put a large dent in illegal sales of firearms and help keep guns out of the wrong hands.

A recent investigation by Everytown for Gun Safety uncovered nearly 1.2 million ads on Armslist – the “largest free gun classifieds on the web”for firearm sales that have no legal requirement for a background check. The investigation also found that one in nine people seeking to buy a gun from an unlicensed seller were legally prohibited from buying or possessing a gun — and would have failed a background check at a licensed gun dealer.

“Allowing online gun buyers to skip a background check is like having two security lines at the airport: one for people who are willing to be screened, and one you can waltz right through packing whatever you want,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety.

Where Does the U.S. Public Stand?

Poll after poll all show the same result: the American people overwhelmingly support universal background checks. According to a 2018 poll by Quinnipiac University, 97 percent of respondents support the policy. Even among gun owners polled, support remained at 97 percent. Other polls show support running well over 80 percent.

Among National Education Association members, 99 percent of NEA members favor universal background checks. Overall, 77 percent believe it is too easy to obtain a gun in the United States and favor a range of solutions to limit access.

What Happens Next?

Without question, the passage of a strong federal gun safety bill in the House of Representatives marks a notable shift in momentum for common sense gun laws.

Still, the outlook in the Senate for the universal background checks bill is bleak. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may even to refuse to even bring it to a vote, and even if the bill were to pass both chambers, President Trump will likely veto it.

But lawmakers who support H.R. 8 believe passage in the House sends a clear message to their counterparts in the Senate that the American public is demanding action on gun safety. While it will be an uphill climb to get the votes to pass the bill in the Senate, it is necessary to keep pushing.

“The House of Representatives took the first real, concrete step toward ending gun violence,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said after the bill’s passage. “The bipartisan bill on background checks for gun purchases offers more than ‘thoughts and prayers’ to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous individuals and, most importantly, keep students safer.”

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9 responses to “4 Things to Know About the Bipartisan Background Checks Act

  1. H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, would require a background check on every gun sale or transfer, with carefully defined exceptions for gifts to family members. Why the exception here? I don’t think Grandpa should be able to give his Grandson his gun w/o him first passing a background check. and then licensed to use it. I can sign over my car to my daughter but she has to be licensed and register the car to use it. Anyone with a gun should have to pass a background check no matter how it’s received.

  2. Thank you for this! How can a teacher get involved in and out of school to help make this vital need for gun safety a priority?

    1. You can start by informing yourself with facts. Unfortunately this article does not present them. You are a teacher and surely you learned in your own schooling how to arrive at them.

    2. If schools are gun free zones, why do shootings occur there.?

      Answer: They’re gun free zone.

      Get a gun, get trained, and protect your students. It’s because of cowardice and wishful thinking perpetrators are capable to cause so much damage. Life is real.

  3. How, exactly, does a private citizen selling their rifle conduct a background check on a prospective buyer? I’m not aware of a standardized process. What will be the liabilities placed on the average Joe who decides they want to sell one of their guns that ends up being used for a crime? Who is going to monitor gun transfers among private sellers? These are real world questions that have to be addressed before paying this bill or you logjam the process and then it goes underground. Criminals will just use the underground system anyway but maybe it will stop a few lunatics.

  4. Under current federal law guns CANNOT be purchased on line without going through a dealer hence a background check. This has been law since 1968!!!

    1. Exactly but unfortunately people don’t realize this and articles like the one above leave that information out because it doesn’t support their agenda.

  5. It seems to be a simple thing to do and enforce and could save many lives.

    Please, protect us from those people who are unfit to bear arms.

    1. This law will not protect you nor was it designed to. All online sales have to go through a FFL hence you a required to have a background check. Do some research, enlighten yourself.

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