House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte said he opposes requiring universal background checks for gun purchases and that he doesn’t plan to take up the issue in his committee.
Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, said he is concerned that requiring checks of buyers for all firearms transactions may lead to a national registry of such purchases and unduly burden law-abiding gun owners.
President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats have made an expanded background check system a main priority in the aftermath of the mass shooting in December at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
Goodlatte said that while his committee would review whatever the Senate produces, his focus will be on beefing up the current National Instant Criminal Background Check System by requiring states to feed more criminal and mental health records into the federal database.
“Universal background checks I do not think will be a part of that,” he told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor in Washington.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is aiming to advance this week or next proposals for new gun laws. The measures include steps to curtail gun trafficking, enhancing background checks and placing limits on military-style semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
The opposition of Goodlatte and other Republicans to the background checks underscores the difficulty the president faces in advancing any new laws to restrict guns.
In remarks at the Senate committee’s hearing on firearms laws today, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa emphasized his opposition to new limits, including an assault-weapon ban.
“There’s much that can be done to enhanced safety now that is not being done” under current laws, he said. Grassley didn’t address wider background checks.
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