Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley joined congressional Democratic leaders in the nation’s capital Monday to call for expanding federal background checks for most firearms purchases.
With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer by her side, Whaley urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to bring a bill to the Senate floor that already has passed the House that would require background checks for sales and transfers at gun shows, online transactions and other private sales.
Pelosi, Schumer and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said H.R. 8 would close loopholes in the nation’s gun laws that put the public’s safety at risk, and universal gun background checks are supported by nine out of 10 Americans, according to recent polls.
“I don’t know anything else that nine out of 10 Americans agree on besides H.R. 8,” Whaley said.
But opponents of “universal” background checks say is a bad policy that does not work and only hurts law-abiding gun owners and also is a big step toward gun registrations and confiscation.
“If you understand the issue and you care about people, you wouldn’t be advocating for that,” said Jim Irvine, president of the Buckeye Firearms Association. “I think the mayor cares about people, but I don’t think she understands the issue.”
He added, “Chuck Schumer understands the issue — he doesn’t give a damn about people.”
H.R. 8 would require a background check for every gun sale or transfer, with few exceptions, such as gifts from family members and some transactions for hunting, target-shooting and self-defense, according to Giffords, a “gun violence prevention” organization led by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who was shot by an assailant in 2012.
Under the proposed law, unlicensed gun sellers would have to use the same background system, meaning gun sales or transfers would have to go through licensed dealers, Giffords said.
The organization says that unlicensed sellers can sell guns at gun shows, online and person-to-person without having to do a background check on the buyer.
Federal law prohibits people from buying guns if they have felony convictions, domestic violence convictions or if they have been involuntarily committed to mental institutions.
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Whaley said victims of gun violence and their families in Dayton want action and the overwhelming majority of Americans support “common sense” reforms like those under H.R. 8.
“I am here on the behalf of the citizens of Dayton who called on us that night to do something,” Whaley said Monday in Washington, D.C. “This is something that can be done, can be fast and will save lives.”
Democratic leaders say there have been 289 mass shootings so far this year across the nation, citing data from the Gun Violence Archive.
Nine people were killed and 27 wounded during a mass shooting in Dayton’s Oregon District on Aug. 4.
Schumer said too many Americans are losing their lives each day to gun violence and tragic mass shootings last month in Dayton and El Paso and Odessa, Texas, resulted in 51 deaths.
Schumer said 40% of gun sales are private transactions that take advantage of loopholes in the law that do not require a federal background check. He said H.R. 8 would be a quick and effective way to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, domestic abusers and other dangerous people.
But Irvine, with the Buckeye Firearms Association, said research has shown that “universal” background checks have no impact on gun violence and gun deaths.
He said only law abiding citizens will follow the rules, while criminals will continue to steal firearms or buy them illegally, as they always have done, he said.
“How do criminals get their guns? The exact same way they get their money, they get their CDs, they get their radios, they get their clothes — they steal them,” he said. “That’s what they do.”
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Earlier this month, Majority Leader McConnell on the Hugh HeWitt Show said he would bring a bill to the Senate floor if President Donald Trump takes a position that makes it clear he is willing to sign the legislation into law.
"If the president is in favor of a number of things that he has discussed openly and publicly, and I know that if we pass it it'll become law, I'll put it on the floor," McConnell said.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, consistently has said there is more that should be tried and can be done to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and both parties must work together towards this goal, said Emmalee Kalmbach, a spokesperson for the senator.
“He will continue to work with his colleagues on common-sense reforms to our gun laws that don’t infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens,” she said.
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