If you missed this brief but provocative speech from yesterday, Citizen Free Press and by the NRA offered chances to catch up to it today. Former NFL star and now-Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT) accused House Democrats of racism in their pursuit of gun-control legislation in two bills. Owens blasted “DC bureaucrats” and accused them of taking a page from Jim Crow laws in their pursuit of the bill.
Owens also told an affecting family story as to why this cause is so near and dear to his heart, although the effort was ultimately futile:
“As bullies and cowards approached his house, they heard the click of rifles and left as fast as they came… My grandfather’s right to own a firearm ensured his right to protect his life…”
Nevertheless, both bills passed today, mainly on party-line votes, as Cam Edwards notes at Bearing Arms:
The final tally for H.R. 8, which would require background checks be performed on the vast majority of private transfers of firearms, was 227-203, with eight Republicans voting in favor of the background check bill and one Democrat opposed. .
H.R. 1446, which would extend the time that the FBI has to conduct an “instant” background check from three business days to at least ten business days (and could extend the waiting period indefinitely, was approved on a slightly narrower vote of 219-210, with two Republicans voting in favor of the new gun control bill and a pair of Democrats in opposition.
Democrats are insistent that these measures will save lives and prevent criminals from obtaining firearms, though they’ve yet to explain how either bill would compel criminals to go through background checks rather than steal firearms or continue to acquire them through other illicit means. Instead, their floor speeches were full of the mindless pablum we’ve come to expect from anti-gun lawmakers.
Making it even more mindless is the fact that these bills won’t go anywhere in the Senate, especially not in their present form. It’s not as if there hasn’t been some GOP support for expanding background checks; Pat Toomey, for instance, tried to get a compromise bill across the finish line a few years ago on background checks but came up six votes short on the filibuster. That, however, was limited to gun shows and online sales; it had a specific exception for private sales between private citizens. HR8 would force those transactions to take place through a federally licensed firearms dealer, even to borrow a gun or rifle, with another background check presumably necessary on its return.
Cam believes Toomey may still come along on HR8 anyway, but not very many other Republicans:
They won’t find many Republicans willing to work with Democrats on criminalizing private transfers. I could see Susan Collins going along, and Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey is expected to vote with Democrats on H.R. 8 at the least, but after that the math gets a little fuzzy. The biggest question at the moment appears to be whether Joe Manchin wants a universal background check bill more than he wants to keep the 60-vote threshold in place.
I doubt Manchin (Toomey’s partner on the earlier efforts) could sell this bill in West Virginia, let alone tank the filibuster to get it. Could Kyrsten Sinema and the soon-to-be-running-again Mark Kelly sell it in Arizona? Seems doubtful.
The bigger question is whether House Democrats wanted progress on background checks more than they wanted a fundraising stunt. If they wanted progress, they could have just floated Toomey’s old proposal, which might have gotten a few more Republican votes in both chambers. Instead, they opted for a stunt bill with zero chance of passage in the Senate, and one that might not even hold all of the Democrats in place.