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House to Vote on Universal Background Check Bill

Earlier this year, Representatives Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Peter King (R-NY), introduced H.R. 8 which has been titled the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019. The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee and is expected to be sent to the floor this week. 

“It’s finally time for action in Congress,” Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said. “This bill will close the loopholes that have allowed felons, domestic violence abusers and other prohibited persons to purchase guns through private sales.”

The bill would prohibit non-licensees from transferring a firearm to another person, unless a gun dealer has first taken possession of the firearm, and conducted a background check. It does contain exemptions for certain transfers. Those include transfers involving law enforcement, the military, and armed private security, so long as it is done in their official capacity and transfers between immediate family members. For example, transfers between spouses, parents to children, grandparents to grandchildren, etc., would be excluded from this bill. The bill outlines four other instances that would be exempt. Transfers which involve the executor or administrator of a will or a trustee of a trust, transfers to an individual to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm, but only for a period of time when that could occur, transfers at a shooting range for the purposes of target shooting, or while hunting are also specified as being exempt.

In short, this bill would generally prohibit the private transfer of firearms at the federal level. Currently, some states allow the private sale of firearms without requiring individuals go to a licensee and transfer the firearm there. Other states regulate the private sale of firearms more strictly and only allow the face to face sale of long guns or no guns at all.

The bill also contains provisions that would prevent ATF from implementing regulations to force a gun dealer to conduct the checks required or to cap any fees associated with conducting the transaction. For some states, where FFLs are not abundant (such as Delaware), dealers would be able to charge a premium to facilitate the transactions because of the lack of competition. 

The enforceability of such a bill remains to be seen. Federal law prohibits the establishment of a registry, with the exception of the National Firearms Act, which means that there is no mechanism to ensure that a firearm was not in the possession of the person prior to the implementation of this proposed bill (if it is passed). 

Readers interested in having their voices heard should contact their Representative immediately and encourage them to vote “No” on H.R. 8.



Adam Kraut is a firearms law attorney practicing in southeastern PA and across the country federally. He hosts The Legal Brief, a show dedicated to crushing the various myths and misinformation around various areas of the gun world and The Gun Collective Podcast. He was also the general manager of a gun store in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

Instagram: @theadamkraut
Twitter: @Kraut4NRA

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