WASHINGTON – The House on Wednesday will hold its first major vote on gun control legislation in years, bringing to the floor two bills aimed at strengthening the background check system for gun purchases.
The changes would be the biggest expansion of the system since background checks were first required 25 years ago.
But while the Democratic-led House is expected to pass the bills, they’re unlikely to be considered in the GOP-controlled Senate.
Still, Democrats made the legislation an early priority in part because repeated mass shootings increased advocacy around the issue. That energy and activism helped Democrats retake the House.
Here’s what you need to know about the legislation.
What would the bills do?
One bill, H.R. 8, would require background checks for private transactions, such as purchases online and at gun shows. Currently, only federally licensed firearms dealers, importers and manufacturers are required to conduct background checks on customers under federal law. (Twenty states and D.C. have already expanded background checks to include at least some private sales.)
The other bill, H.R. 1112, would extend to 20 days the amount of time firearms dealers must wait for a response from the background check system before the sale can proceed. Currently, they can make the sale if they haven’t received a response in three days.
What are the arguments in favor?
Advocates say the bills would close loopholes in the background check system. For example, the gunman who killed nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015, had drug charges that should have prevented him from buying his gun. But the dealer was able to proceed with the sale because the background check system had not sent a response within three days.
About one in five gun owners surveyed in 2015 by researchers from Northeastern and Harvard universities said they obtained their guns without a background check – whether as a gift or through a purchase.