After the House last week passed, with some Republican support, two major bills to bolster background checks and to close the so-called Charleston loophole, gun control groups are focusing all of their lobbying efforts on the Senate, The Hill reported on Sunday.
Supporters face an uphill battle to win over enough GOP votes in the upper chamber, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is vowing rapid action to help get gun control legislation passed for the first time in decades.
"We have a slim gun violence prevention majority, but we have the majority, which we know includes eight Republicans," Brady PAC executive director Brian Lemek said.
Eight Republican congressmen last week voted for the legislation that would make it mandatory for unlicensed or private sellers to carry out a check before they transfer a firearm.
Two GOP representatives voted for the other bill, which would prolong the time federal investigators have to carry out background checks from three to 10 days.
It is known as the Charleston loophole because the shooter at the Charleston, South Carolina, church in 2015 who killed nine black parishioners was able to buy a gun legally even though he had an arrest on his record after it did not appear in his background check during the three-day waiting period.
The Senate is expected to take up the two House-passed bills separately, with Schumer saying “the legislative graveyard is over. H.R. 8 [the first bill] will be on the floor of the Senate, and we will see where everybody stands.”
Each bill requires 60 votes to make it through the Senate, which means 10 Republicans must back the legislation to overcome a legislative filibuster.
Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal told The Hill that “I’m talking to senators across the aisle, but the real difference-makers in this debate are the survivors, students, and family members who have made this issue a movement.”
The senator from Connecticut added that “the most powerful advocates for change are the people who have personal stories to share about how a background check could have saved someone they love - that’s who my Republican colleagues have to answer to.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden will make passing the gun control bills a priority.
“I expect he will look for opportunities to be engaged and advocate for why these are not political issues; these are commonsense efforts to keep our children safe, keep our country safe and... ensure that we are... reducing gun violence in the country," she said.
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, who authored the upper chamber’s version of H.R. 8, stressed that “the job is to bring this bill to the Senate and get it done. [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell would not bring any anti-gun legislation to the Senate over the past five years,” when the Republicans had the majority.
The House had also passed the background check and Charleston bills two years ago, but they never received a vote in the Senate.
Adding hope to gun control advocates is the weakened state of the National Rifle Association, the once powerful pro-gun lobbying group which has filed for bankruptcy and announced in January that it will leave New York and reincorporate in Texas. The organization is also facing a civil suit from New York Attorney General Letitia James.
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