Congress Passes First Major Federal Gun Safety Legislation in 25 Years


Photo by Victoria Harrison

The passage of HR8 will hopefully lead to more gun reforms and end the string of mass shootings experienced across the country

Just over a year since the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida which left 17 students dead and many more injured, Congress passed the first major federal gun legislation in twenty-five years, HR8 which passed with a vote of 240 to 190.

Described as “historic” by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, HR8 would end the loopholes that excludes private sellers from conducting background checks on intended buyers. Previously, federal law required that licensed gun dealers must provide a background check on all buyers, to ensure the intended buyer had no criminal record or history of mental illness.

Private sellers did not have to follow this law however, according to the 1994 Brady Law, which allowed anyone to purchase a gun through the internet or from gun shows without a background check. Currently, most unlicensed firearms dealers do not conduct any sort of background check, HR8 make this action illegal. HR8 would also make it illegal for anyone under the age of twenty-one to purchase a handgun.

Another bill HR112 would also extend the period for conducting background checks from three to ten days, which would allow for further and more thorough background checks. Extending the period for conducting background checks would close the “Charleston loophole” which allows the purchase of a firearm to take place if the background check is not completed within the three-day window.

The loophole earned its name from the 2015 deadly shooting in a church in Charleston, South Carolina as the short window allowed for Dylann Roof to purchase a gun without completing a full background check. 

But wait, it’s not over yet: 

The bill still needs to pass through the Senate and then to the President before becoming a law. With the Senate being Republican-controlled, there are concerns over HR8’s future. Republican politicians are wary about passing HR8 as some feel it will do the opposite of protecting citizens.

Politician Steve Scalise suggested that HR8 would only make it more difficult for someone to obtain a gun to protect themselves. He tweeted, “I strongly oppose the gun control bills brought forward this week under the guise of background checks. Republicans identified many problems with this bill and the Democrat majority shut out almost every one of our solutions.

Under this bill, a woman might have to wait 20 business days to get a gun to protect herself from domestic violence if the NICS system isn’t working. If she borrows a firearm for self-defense, the friend who loans her a gun would face a year in prison and up to a $100,000 fine.” President Trump has stated his intension to veto the bill should it reach his desk.

However, many are optimistic about what HR8 means for the future of gun reforms. As 97% of Americans support universal background checks and stronger gun laws. Antigun advocate Gabrielle Giffords tweeted, “Todays victory in the House is a critical first step toward stronger gun laws that will save lives. The responsibility to take the next step now shifts to the Senate.” 

The March for Our Lives organization strongly recommends that people need to make their voices heard and call their senator urging them to vote YES in favor of SB. 42. HR8 will not only save lives but protect Americans from gun violence across the country.