Democratic-led Congress will try to pass first major gun control bill in decades

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Senate and House Democrats Tuesday introduced legislation to expand firearm background checks in what could become the first new gun control law in decades.

The House will vote on the bill next week, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, announced Tuesday.

Sen. Chris Murphy and Rep. Mike Thompson reintroduced the bill in the Senate and House moments before Hoyer’s announcement. It would require background checks on all gun sales and many gun transfers.

Democrats passed the legislation in 2019, but the GOP-led Senate at that time ignored the bill.

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Now, Democrats control the Senate, House, and White House and have the first opportunity to expand gun control since 1993.

“Joe Biden and hundreds of congressional candidates from both parties ran on the issue of background checks,” Murphy, of Connecticut, said in a statement Tuesday. “This is the year to get this bill passed into law.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, is a co-sponsor of the bill but has not announced timing for consideration of the measure after the House passes it.

The bill would make it illegal to transfer a firearm to another person without a background check performed by a licensed dealer.

The legislation carves out some exceptions for family members and some transfers associated with law enforcement and the military. The bill would also exclude the background check requirement for temporary transfers of firearms “that is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm.”

Democrats Tuesday touted bipartisan support. Eight House Republicans voted for it in 2019, but it’s not clear whether Democrats would get the 10 Republican votes in the Senate to circumvent a filibuster.

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Hoyer said Tuesday the House next week will also consider separate legislation that would extend the time needed to conduct background checks from three to 10 days, which was authored in response to the June 2015 mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.

The shooter was able to purchase a weapon even though he should have been disqualified after a gun background check time limit expired.

Congress last passed a gun control measure in 1993. The bill, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, established a waiting period for handgun purchases and established a national instant criminal background check system to be contacted by firearms dealers before the transfer of any firearm.

In 1994, Congress passed and Clinton signed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which prohibited civilian possession of certain semi-automatic weapons. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired in 2004.

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