Valley forum: Time for Senate to move on background check for gun sales

By Rep. Mike Thompson

(Editor’s note: Rep. Mike Thompson, D – St. Helena, released the following statement Thursday on the one-year anniversary of the Senate’s failure to pass bipartisan legislation that would require criminal background checks for all commercial gun sales.)

One year ago today, a minority of Senators voted to block bipartisan legislation that would help keep criminals, domestic abusers, terrorists and the dangerously mentally ill from getting guns by requiring a simple background check for all commercial firearm sales.

Every day, at licensed gun stores where background checks are required, more than 170 felons, nearly 50 domestic abusers, and nearly 20 fugitives are prevented from buying a gun. But because background checks aren’t required for all commercial sales, these same dangerous purchasers can turn right around and buy a gun at a gun show or over the Internet with no questions asked.

My bipartisan bill, and the bipartisan bill blocked one year ago in the Senate, will close this loophole, keep guns from dangerous people, strengthen the Second Amendment rights of law abiding citizens and save lives. It took six years and seven votes until we passed the original Brady law that established the requirement for background checks at licensed dealers. We didn’t give up then, we won’t give up now. We’re going to finish the job.

(Thompson and Pete King (R-NY) are co-authors of H.R. 1565, legislation that would expand the current background check system to all commercial sales. The bipartisan King-Thompson legislation is identical to the bipartisan agreement on background checks struck by Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), and supported by a bipartisan majority in the Senate. 189 House members have cosponsored the King-Thompson bill.

The legislation helps prevent guns from falling into criminal hands and reinforces the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners. It expands the existing background check system to cover all commercial firearm sales, including those at gun shows, over the internet or in classified ads. By closing these loopholes, the legislation greatly reduces the number of places that criminals and the dangerously mentally ill can buy guns. Right now, a criminal can buy a firearm at a table or out of someone’s trunk at a gun show, over the internet, or through a newspaper ad, because no background check is required for these kinds of sales.

Last year, the background check system identified and denied more than 88,000 sales to criminals, domestic abusers, those with serious mental illnesses and other prohibited purchasers. More than 40 percent of gun transactions are conducted without a background check, and the King-Thompson legislation helps close these loopholes. Under H.R. 1565, background checks will continue to be conducted through a licensed dealer and records will be kept in the same manner as they have been for more than 40 years.

The legislation also strengthens the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners by banning the government from creating a federal registry and makes the misuse of records a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. It also provides reasonable exceptions for family and friend transfers and allows active military personnel to buy guns in the state they are stationed.)