What To Know About The New Congress’ First Moves On Gun Control

by Joseph D. Lyons
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images

House lawmakers introduced a bill Tuesday to expand background checks to cover all gun sales — even those sold by individuals. Former Rep. Gabby Giffords, herself a victim of gun violence, joined former colleagues in the House from both sides of the aisle in announcing the Bipartisan Background Checks Act. Parkland survivors also helped launch the bill, both by attending the launch and recording a video for social media.

The Bipartisan Background Checks Act was introduced with five Democratic co-sponsors and five Republican co-sponsors. Speaker Nancy Pelosi assigned it the number H.R. 8, in honor of Tuesday being the eighth anniversary of the Tucson shooting that killed six and left Giffords with a gunshot wound to the head.

The bill would require sellers who are not licensed gun dealers to go into an authorized store to have the background check run — even if it's just a transfer of ownership with no money changing hands.

"Stopping gun violence takes courage, the courage to do what's right, the courage of new ideas," Giffords said at the press conference announcing the bill. "I've seen great courage when my life was on the line. Now is the time to come together, be responsible. Democrats, Republicans, everyone. We must never stop fighting. Fight, fight, fight."

Many Parkland survivors filmed a video in support of the measure for NowThis. It hammers home the widespread support of universal background checks among the American public — some 97 percent — and calls on Republican leaders in the Senate to take up the bill.

The Parkland students in the video recognized the eight-year anniversary of the Tucson shooting, and then explained that since then, Congress has done "absolutely nothing" to stop gun violence.

Some 40 Democrats in the Senate also filed a bill on Tuesday, reintroducing the Background Check Expansion Act. It would similarly expand background checks to any unlicensed seller — online, at gun shows, or from their home.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, where the Las Vegas shooting occurred, presented universal background checks as the jumping-off point for addressing gun violence. "This is an essential first step toward ensuring we reduce the number of mass shootings in America, keep guns out of the hands of criminals, and save lives," Cortez Masto said in a statement announcing the reintroduction of the bill.

Peter Ambler, executive director of Giffords, the advocacy group the former representative started to fight gun violence, noted the significance of the announcement. "You look at those years — 2009, 2010 — when you had Barack Obama in the White House, 60 Democratic votes in the Senate, a big Democratic majority in the House, and not only did nothing happen, but it wasn't even on the table," Ambler told NPR.

Ambler continued to say that at the time the opposition seemed "too powerful." No longer. "From the public polling to the ballot box, the American people have spoken up and demanded action to help end the tragedy of gun violence that far too many in our country face every day," he told public radio.

Even if the House and the Senate pass one of the two bills introduced — or some sort of combined version — there's no guarantee Trump will support it. He came out against universal background checks, after briefly seeming to support them, following the Parkland shooting last year.