Critical Universal Background Check Discussions Stall in Congress

After being back in session for nearly a month, the battle in Congress concerning gun control continues to rage on with a new fury…and new stalling tactics. As mass shootings continue to plague the U.S. with no end in sight, many are left wondering “What is being done to stop these horrific events?” Unfortunately, these questions are met with faltering answers that are embedded with uncertainty, though there is still some hope to cling to. 

In the face of tragedy, Congress has considered the implementation of what are known as “universal background checks,” which would require gun consumers to undergo background checks through federally licensed gun dealers and manufacturers. This would hopefully halt the flow of guns through gun shows and close off loopholes that make it relatively easy for any average person to acquire these lethal weapons. Republican senator Pat Toomey and Democratic senator Joe Manchin proposed a bill in January called “The Bipartisan Background Check Act of 2019”, or H.R. 8, that would enact these background checks nationwide. The House of Representatives passed the bill in February. However, this process is not without its obstacles. The bill was read twice in the Senate, but has yet to pass into law, leaving many senators and citizens anxiously waiting. To narrow the problem down, there are two main obstacles blocking the expansion of background checks.

The first is President Donald J Trump’s refusal thus far to support H.R.8. To no one’s surprise, agreement on new measures is nearly impossible when the issue remains partisan. President Trump plans to propose his own “gun package” to enact gun control, which would reportedly support the expansion of background checks and create an entity to perform them. Many Republicans in the Senate are taking a partisan approach and remain in limbo on the issue as they wait for some form of legislature that the President approves. This has hindered any sort of progress in the Senate on H.R.8, and has been compared to taking the Senate hostage when it comes to decision making. However, that is not to say that the two parties will not agree when the proposal is eventually released. The original proposers of H.R. 8 have stated that they believe Attorney General William Barr, the drafter of the President’s proposal, does intend to use the proposal in order to support the expansion of background checks. Thus, they are hopeful that the two parties will be able to agree and make progress.

The second obstacle is repeated attacks from the National Rifle Association. As the drafts of Trump’s proposal continue to circulate on Capitol Hill, the NRA has lashed out, stating the expanded background checks will burden law-abiding citizens who have a constitutional right to a gun for protection. The NRA also believes that expanding background checks fails to address the real problem that they consider the reason for mass shootings: the mental health system. As a key ally of the Republican party, the NRA’s attacks and statements further undermine any progress that could be made in the Senate. 

This repeated impediment of any comprehensive universal background check plan is extremely detrimental to the country. As many horrified U.S. citizens experienced in the summer, failure to control the sales of guns has led to tragedies such as the ones in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, which claimed 31 lives collectively. Unfortunately, the urgency of the matter has not sped up the process, so American citizens will just have to see what transpires in the coming weeks. 

By Emmelyn Cullen

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