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Gun control: House passes bill extending time for background checks

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 2/28/2019 Maureen Groppe
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WASHINGTON – For the second day in a row, the Democrat-led House passed legislation Thursday toughening the background check system for gun purchases.

The bill, approved on a largely party-line vote of 228 to 198, would increase from three days to at least 10 the number of days a seller has to wait for a response from the system before transferring a firearm. 

But like the bill the House passed Wednesday to extend background checks to private transactions at gun shows and over the internet, Thursday's bill is unlikely to be voted on by the Republican-controlled Senate. President Donald Trump has threatened to veto both bills if they reach his desk.

Nonetheless, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said before the vote that people want lawmakers to take action to try to reduce mass shootings. 

"I think the public is tired of moments of silence in times of mass murders and high-profile tragedies," she said.

The vote came after emotional and personal stories from two lawmakers.

Rep. Debbie Lesko, a survivor of domestic violence, tried to amend the bill to keep the three-day time limit on background checks for domestic violence victims trying to buy a gun.

Sheila Jackson Lee et al. standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera © Provided by USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Satellite Information Network, Inc.

“Do we really want to tell victims of domestic violence they have to wait up to 20 business days,” the Arizona Republican asked, “before they are allowed to adequately defend themselves?”

Saying she opposed Lesko’s proposed change with “every bit of my heart and soul,” Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., described being terrified as a child by an abusive father who she said shouldn’t have had a gun. But when her mother bought a weapon for protection, Dingell said, “we had two guns to worry about.”

"All of us were scared to death," Dingell said.

The vote was held on the 25th anniversary of federal background checks going into effect to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.

Democrats argue the changes are needed to strengthen the system, action they say voters were calling for in the midterm elections that handed Democrats control of the House.

Republicans said the bill would do nothing to make communities safer.

"But it will make it harder for law-abiding citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights to defend themselves and their families," said Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga.

Learn more: What's in the gun control bills that House Democrats will bring to a vote this week

Tragedy leads to action: Parkland shooting spurred a grieving mom to run for Congress. Now she's voting for new gun laws

The vast majority of background checks are completed within three days. If a dealer has not received a response within that time, the sale can proceed under current law.

The bill would extend that limit to 10 days. If there is still no answer, the customer could request an escalated review, certifying that they are not legally prohibited from having a gun. The sale could then go through if there is no response after another 10 days.

Supporters said the bill would address the "Charleston Loophole," referring to the gunman who killed nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, who had a record that would have made him ineligible to buy a gun. Because of clerical errors in the FBI’s database, the background check was still going on after the three-day deadline so the dealer was able to proceed with the sale. 

Watching the vote from the House spectators' gallery was the widow and two surviving daughters of the pastor killed in the shooting.

“Let’s give the authorities enough time to do their jobs," said Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C.

But Rep. Tom Rice, R-S.C., said the bill creates an undue amount of time to buy a gun and there are other ways to prevent what happened in his state in 2015.

A new approach:Gun control: Gabrielle Giffords' activism is symbolic of the Democratic Party's shift on guns

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Gun control: House passes bill extending time for background checks

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