Now that the House, as expected, has approved a pair of gun control bills dealing with background checks on firearm transfers, the measures are headed over to the Senate. On today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co we delve into Wednesday’s floor debate on H.R. 8 and H.R. 1446 as well as taking a look at the prospects for passage of the gun control bills on the Senate side of the Capitol.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, wasting little time and taking advantage of the opportunity to preen in front of the cameras, said shortly after the House vote that he plans on bringing both bills to the floor of the Senate.
“In the past, when they sent it over to us last time, it went into [fomer Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell’s legislative graveyard,” Schumer said during a press conference Thursday. “The legislative graveyard is over. H.R. 8 will be on the floor of the Senate, and we will see where everybody stands. No more hopes and prayers, thoughts and prayers. A vote is what we need, a vote, not thoughts and prayers.”
“Certainly hundreds of thousands — maybe millions — of people walking the streets today because we passed [the 1994 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act] would be dead,” Schumer, who authored the Brady Act requiring background checks on all U.S. firearm buyers, said during the briefing.
He continued: “But when we passed the law, little did we know, it had some loopholes in it that we didn’t know at the time. We didn’t know there would be an internet, so we didn’t prohibit internet sales without a background check.”
That’s an incredibly dumb comment for a couple of reasons. First, the Internet was actually a thing back in 1994, though we were restricted to dial-up back then.
The issue isn’t online sales of firearms, because every retail gun sale already has to go through a background check, whether online or in-person. What Schumer is really talking about are private transfers of firearms, and those too were a thing back in the 1990s.
Schumer himself was the author of the Brady Bill in 1993, so he was the one ultimately responsible for the legislation. It’s utterly depressing that he can get away with talking about “loopholes” that nobody knew about at the time without reporters calling out on his B.S., but frankly, I’d be shocked if many reporters on Capitol Hill today are even aware that he was the one drafting the bill in the first place. As a result of their lack of background knowledge on the issue, the senator can get away with blatantly lying about how the bill was put together.
The reason why Congress didn’t attempt to impose background check requirements on private gun transfers at the time is because the support simply wasn’t there. Background checks on private sales are the first step towards a national gun registry, and that idea was a non-starter for Congress in 1993. Chuck Schumer knows that’s the case, but he’s trying to rewrite history.
This should be a non-starter today as well, but the Democratic Party has become much more unified in its hostility towards the Second Amendment than it was 25 years ago, which brings us back to the prospects for H.R. 8 and H.R. 1446 in today’s U.S. Senate.
We know that Sen. Joe Manchin has previously supported expanding background checks, though the bill he co-authored with Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey back in 2013 was slightly less onerous than the measure approved by the House on Thursday. Under his proposal, all private gun sales conducted online or at gun shows would have had to go through a background check, but person-to-person private transfers would have been exempt.
Manchin could try to water down H.R. 8 in the Senate, but I don’t know how much support there would be for that among his fellow Democrats. Meanwhile, there’s little to no chance of ten Republican senators signing on to the new background check bills, which leaves Schumer with a choice: bring the bill to the floor for a vote and watch it go down to defeat, or try to figure out a way to pass the legislation with just 51 votes.
If I had to make a bet today, I’d lay my money on Schumer first trying to get passage with 51 votes, but that would require nuking the filibuster. If that proves to be impossible, I suspect Schumer will run the bill and try to use the objections of Republicans to paint them as “tools of the gun lobby” more intent on protecting gun companies than the lives of the American people. Of course that would be a lie, but we know that Schumer’s pretty good at peddling untruths without being called out by the press.
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