1. Update
  2. Gun Violence

116th Congress Makes Gun Violence Prevention A Priority

By Andre Gobbo, January 30, 2019


On January 8, 2011, Rep. Gabby Giffords was shot in Tucson, AZ. On January 8, 2019, House Democratic leadership introduced a bill requiring universal background checks for all gun purchases. It is a small but smart step, and it has a real chance at becoming law.

Currently, only licensed arms dealers must conduct background checks on gun sales. The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 (H.R. 8) would require a background check on the sale or transfer of any firearm. Unlicensed dealers, like those selling weapons over the internet, at gun shows, and through private sales, would have to use the same background check system. H.R. 8 would also impose penalties and/or fines, including jail time, for noncompliance.

While H.R. 8 would make this rule apply to nearly all gun sales and transfers, there are a few exceptions to the rule:

Temporary transfers for sporting purposes:

  • The bill allows people to transfer firearms at shooting ranges, while hunting, trapping, and/or fishing, provided there’s no reason to believe a crime will be committed.

Family transfers:

  • H.R. 8 allows immediate family members to transfer firearms within their family.
  • It also allows a transfer to an executor or trustee of an estate upon a person’s death without a background check.

Law enforcement:

  • Any member of law enforcement or armed forces can transfer a firearm while acting within the scope of their official duties.

Emergency self-defense:

  • This exception allows individuals to transfer firearms to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm without a background check.

Background checks are widely popular among broad swaths of Americans, proven to keep our communities safer, and keep guns from getting into the hands of the wrong people. For example:

While H.R. 8 is not the broad, sweeping reform needed to successfully address gun violence, it is an important, common sense first step. Universal background checks will prevent people from acquiring guns who shouldn’t have them in the first place, saving lives. Moreover, it could be the first crack in the barrier that has prevented any sensible gun legislation from passing Congress for decades.

Gun violence prevention must be a top priority for the 116th Congress. Contact your member of Congress now.

Andre Gobbo

  • Domestic Policy Associate

Andre Gobbo adds capacity to the Domestic Policy team by handling constituent queries, writing action alerts and sign-on letters, assisting with lobbying visits, creating informational content, supporting coalition relationships, and helping execute FCNL’s legislative strategies. He primarily works on issues relating to economic justice and gun violence prevention but also assists other domestic policy initiatives. He also serves as the co-chair of the Policy & Advocacy subcommittee within the Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence coalition.