Bill Expanding Background Checks Clears Senate Judiciary Committee

A bill that would expand background checks to almost all gun purchases was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday without the support of a single Republican. Currently, background checks are required for licensed dealers, but not for private gun sales, a workaround that allows unmonitored gun purchases by those with violent criminal histories. Bloomberg reports:

New York Senator Charles Schumer, the background-check bill’s author, defended the measure shortly before the vote, directing his remarks to the eight Republican panel members who were unified in opposing it.

“It’s sad” Schumer said. “Right after Newtown there was a view that maybe the right place we could all come together on was background checks.” Gun crimes have greatly declined since enactment of the 1993 Brady Law that created a national background-check system, he said. “All we’re doing is extending the success of the Brady Law to the areas it doesn’t cover.”

The complexity of the debate on Capitol Hill reflects the influence of the National Rifle Association, a lobby group for gun owners and manufacturers. The NRA, which claims more than 4 million members, has led opposition to any limitations on the ownership of firearms, including expanded background checks.

Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, the Judiciary panel’s top Republican, said the background-check bill won’t be effective in curbing gun violence because criminals won’t submit to them.

Despite NRA opposition, some 91 percent of Americans support universal background checks — polling that is reflected in increased Republican support. But even those like Sen. Tom Coburn (R-TX) who have said they support background checks withheld support from Schumer’s bill over requirements to keep records of private transactions — a provision that Schumer said has been incorporated in gun legislation since the Brady Bill in 1993. The hope is that senators will be able to come to a compromise before a full Senate vote.


The vote follows Judiciary Committee approval of another measure last week intended to reduce gun trafficking that Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) called a “solution in search of a problem.” Another proposal by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines was postponed until Thursday.