One day after approving a major legislative package that would require universal background checks for firearm purchases, the House of Representatives passed another gun control bill on Thursday. This latest measure would increase the background check review period from three days to 10 if it becomes law.
The bill, titled the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019, is meant to address the so-called "Charleston loophole." Many believe that the gunman who killed nine people at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015 was enabled by a short review period. The FBI identified a drug arrest during his background check but was unable to find an actual conviction record within the three-day review period. When the store didn't hear back from the FBI within three days, it sold a weapon to the man who later committed a mass shooting.
According to Time, over 60,000 people since 1998 have been able to buy firearms even though more elaborate background checks later showed that they should have been barred from doing so. Domestic violence cases can take a particularly long time to investigate; only 70 percent of domestic violence background checks are completed within three days, according to the Government Accountability Office.
Thursday's bill would lengthen the review period to 10 days. If the background check takes longer, the buyer could request "an escalated review." If the check still isn't done after that review, that person would be able to purchase the firearm.
The bill passed 228-198, with three Republicans defecting to support it and seven Democrats coming out in opposition. One Republican and two Democrats sponsored the measure, including House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-South Carolina). Clyburn gave a speech in favor of the bill on the House floor on Wednesday and brought up the Charleston shooting victims.
"I'm here today to say that the members of this august body need to think a little bit about the value of those lives," Clyburn told the chamber, according to The Hill. "Are they more valuable than the inconvenience a gun purchaser may have by having to wait 10 rather than three days to make a purchase? What would make one so anxious to purchase a gun in the first place?"
The other Democrat sponsoring the bill was Joe Cunningham, who represents the South Carolina district where the 2015 shooting took place. "It is long past time we closed the Charleston loophole and gave law enforcement the time necessary to make sure dangerous people don't end up with deadly weapons they are prohibited from obtaining," Cunningham said in a Thursday statement.
On Wednesday, the House passed two bills that would implement near-universal background checks for firearm purchases. The so-called "gun show loophole" currently allows some private sellers to avoid making buyers to go through background checks.
According to the South-Carolina based paper The Post and Courier, Thursday's bill — like the package passed the day before — is unlikely to become law right now. Republican leaders in the Senate have said they won't bring the legislation up for a vote, and President Donald Trump has promised to veto it if it comes across his desk. Still, after years without any significant new gun control legislation, the measures passed in the House this week are a big step forward.