WASHINGTON - Congressional Democrats on Tuesday launched a fresh push for the most significant gun control in years, unveiling legislation that would require background checks for firearm purchases.
A bipartisan group in the House plans to introduce a measure Tuesday afternoon that would require background checks for all gun sales and most gun transfers, according to aides. Federally licensed gun sellers are required to run background checks on people who purchase guns, but private sellers who are not federally licensed do not.
The House measure is among the first actions taken by the newly elected Democratic body that pledged to make gun control a top priority. Many members were elected by making gun control a centerpiece issue, arguing for restrictions on firearms and universal background checks.
Participating in the bill introduction will be former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head eight years ago Tuesday at a constituent event in Tucson, Arizona. Six people died, and fifteen were wounded.
The measure has bipartisan support and was sponsored by Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., and Peter King, R-N.Y. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has signaled that the bill is a priority; she will speak at its introduction and has assigned it a low bill number, HR 8 - to show its importance and mark the anniversary of the Tucson shooting.
Despite making gains on the state level, gun control has stalled in Congress since a shooting killed 20 children and six teachers at a Connecticut elementary school in 2012 and calls were made for reform. The nation has experienced several mass shootings in the past six years, and advocates for gun control argue that the country, and Congress, is finally poised to act on the issue.
"For years, that seemed like a pipe dream," Peter Ambler, executive director of Giffords, the former congresswoman's gun-control group, said to a group of people whose lives have been impacted by gun violence on Tuesday morning. The midterm elections, he said, "delivered a mandate" to Congress to introduce gun safety legislation.
"The folks running at least one of the houses in Congress know that in the face of nearly 40,000 people dying from gun violence each year that we can no longer sit idly by and let that go on as if it doesn't matter," Ambler said.
Any gun control legislation will face a major roadblock in the Republican-controlled Senate. But Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and 40 other Democratic senators introduced legislation Tuesday that would also require background checks for gun sales.
"We must have a national standard: No background check, no sale," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. "In this past election, gun violence prevention was on the ballot and gun violence prevention won. We're now at a tipping point - on the cusp of breaking the grip of the NRA and special interests who are in the way of reasonable reforms. Beginning with background checks, we must seize this historic opportunity to move forward on common sense gun safety measures that will end the American epidemic of gun violence."