On Thursday, Senate Democrats unveiled a sweeping new proposal that targeted three longtime goals of gun control advocates: closing background check “loopholes,” strengthening the background check system, and cracking down on straw purchasing and gun trafficking. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) addressed the issue in a letter to the Senate on Wednesday, and shortly afterwards Senate Democrats took to their social media platforms to support the proposal.
“We cannot stand by any longer—time to pass common sense gun legislation to keep guns from falling into the wrong hands,” Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) wrote on Twitter.
“How many must be killed before we #StopGunViolence? Need to expand background checks, close loopholes & make #guntrafficking federal crime,” wrote Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who linked to the hashtag used by Senate Democrats to rally support on Twitter and other social media.
The first element of the new gun control package was revealed last week when Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Christopher Murphy (D-CT) announced a bill geared towards removing the 72-hour limit on background checks. Currently with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the FBI has three days to conduct a background check, where the bureau looks through the applicant’s criminal history, mental health records, and other factors that could result in the application being denied. Typically the process is very fast, but if it is not completed within three days, the applicant is allowed to purchase the firearm.
According to the New York Times, this “loophole” was what allegedly allowed Dylann Roof to buy the gun he used to shoot nine people in a Charleston, South Carolina church.
“Clearly the 72-hour limit has real-life consequences,” Senator Blumenthal told the Times in an interview. “I am exasperated and frustrated and angry because Congress has utterly failed in a basic, essential responsibility to protect the public against dangerous people having firearms.”
Other parts of the gun control package will touch on background checks as well, as well as what supporters called “shutting down the illegal gun pipeline.” Observers have drawn parallels between the current proposal and the failed Manchin-Toomey bill in 2013, which also sought to strengthen the background check system after the tragic Newtown shooting in the previous year. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who helped write the bill in 2013, says he continues to support what he called “common sense” gun reform.
“It made sense then, it’s been out there for two and a half years, it makes sense now,” Manchin told MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
However, critics say that despite broad support from Senate Democrats, the current proposal is not likely to make much headway in a Republican-controlled Senate. Political observers also noted that the proposal has even less of a chance in the House, where Republicans have a significant majority.