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North Jersey House Members Support Expanded Background Checks For Firearms Purchases

Members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation backed a pair of gun control bills passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Approved March 11, the legislation, which seeks to expand background checks for firearms purchases, marks the first significant move on gun control since Democrats won the White House and majority of both chambers in Congress during the 2020 Election.

The first measure, H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021, would require background checks on nearly all firearms purchases, including transactions involving private or unlicensed sellers.

Background Checks

It would apply to those buying weapons over the internet and at gun shows, as well as grant exceptions for guns given as gifts or temporary transfers necessary to prevent imminent bodily harm or death.

The bill passed 227-203 and had the support of eight Republicans, including Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-4).

Rep. Bill Pascrell (NJ-9), one of the bill’s co-sponsors, said, “America’s gun violence epidemic has claimed far too many victims. Its tragic resilience is one of the worst stains on American life. Today, House Democrats are saying: no more. Our legislation will keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals and make our communities safer.”

“Long Overdue

Rep. Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) described the legislation as “common sense gun safety bills” that has been “long overdue.”

Sherill, who co-sponsored H.R. 8 during her first term in office, said, “For two years, Sen. [Mitch] McConnell stonewalled this bill despite the widespread national support for universal background checks.”

Lawmakers “need to deliver for the American people these crucial safety precautions that will help protect our communities and especially our kids,” she added.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) added “More than 90% of Americans—both Democrats and Republicans—support background check. I voted on the bipartisan Background Checks Act to place background check on gun sales, and to protect our communities, kids and teachers from gun violence.”

Charleston Loophole

The second bill, H.R. 1146, also known as the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021, seeks to close the “Charleston loophole,” which allows a firearm sale to proceed if a background check is not completed within three days, by expanding the review period to 10 days.

Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) noted the loophole has enabled 75,000 guns to be sold to owners who did not pass the required background check, including Dylann Roof who was able to legally purchase a firearm to kill nine people at a Charleston, South Carolina church in 2015.

“Background checks are a simple way to get guns out of the hands of people who want to harm others,” Payne said. “It is a way to separate the legitimate gun owners from potential gun buyers who are terrorists and domestic abusers.”

The measure passed in a 219-210 vote and its two Republican supporters included Smith.

Demand from Malinowski

Rep. Tom Malinowski (NJ-7), a co-sponsor of both bills, said, “While there is still much work to be done, I am proud that today we took effective action to help ensure that no family has to endure the heartbreak and horror of losing a loved one to gun violence.”

Malinowski continued “Americans from all walks of life: students, parents, law enforcement, veterans and law-abiding gun owners are demanding that we act to keep our kids safe.”

After the House passed the bills, Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) vowed to put the legislation to a vote. But the measures face a tough battle in the U.S. Senate, where Democrats hold a razor-thin majority.  

Bills Advance To The Senate

In February 2019, the House passed both gun control bills, but the Republican majority blocked them in the Senate.

Pascrell said, “For decades, Republicans have offered nothing more than ‘thoughts and prayers,’ while countless American lives have been lost to gun violence.”

He added: “Inaction is unforgivable. The American people elected Democrats to act and that’s what we’re doing today.”

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