March 03, 2021

Van Hollen, Cardin, Murphy, Senators Reintroduce Legislation to Require Universal Background Checks to Reduce Gun Violence

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin (both D-Md.) joined Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and a number of their Senate colleagues in reintroducing the Background Check Expansion Act to expand federal background checks to all gun sales. Under current federal law, unlicensed or private sellers are not required to conduct a background check prior to transferring a firearm. Research indicates that, due to these exceptions, as many as a quarter of all gun sales in the United States may occur without a background check. Additionally, polling shows that 97% of Americans support comprehensive background checks. U.S. Representative Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) introduced the companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Gun violence has plagued too many families in Maryland and across the country. Universal background checks will save lives. Our bill is a common-sense, effective way to keep weapons out of dangerous hands. It’s time to get it done. I’ll keep fighting to pass this bill and enact meaningful gun reform to tackle this crisis and stop the violence that is plaguing our communities,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“If there is no background check, there should be no sale of a firearm. The goal is simple: keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t be able to buy them,” said Senator Cardin. “Let’s finally do what the American people support and require federal background checks for all gun sales before more lives are lost.”

“Background checks are simple, easy, and they save lives. That’s why more than 90 percent of Americans support our legislation to make sure no guns are sold in this country without a background check,” said Senator Murphy. “Joe Biden and hundreds of congressional candidates from both parties ran on the issue of background checks. This is the year to get this bill passed into law. And this legislation has the chance to bring this country together – even 85 percent of gun owners believe in expanding background checks, and a growing anti-gun violence movement, made up of both Democrats and Republicans, is demanding change. I look forward to working across the aisle to get background checks legislation across the finish line.”

“The last two years have been a turning point in our longstanding fight to help prevent gun violence and today we take another leap forward in helping to save lives. Joined by Democrats and Republicans, today we introduce the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021 to help keep guns out of the hands of those who may be a danger to themselves or others,” said Representative Thompson, Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. “Time and time again, we have seen that the American people want universal background checks, in fact public polling shows that the majority of people, Democrats, Republicans and Independents, support this. We began our work to combat the scourge of gun violence eight years ago after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School and will not stop until we deliver for the American people.”

The Background Checks Expansion Act will require background checks for the sale or transfer of all firearms. This requirement extends to all unlicensed sellers, whether they do business online, at gun shows, or out of their home. Exceptions to the Background Check Expansion Act include transfers between law enforcement officers, temporarily loaning firearms for hunting and sporting events, providing firearms as gifts to immediate family members, transferring a firearm as part of an inheritance, or temporarily transferring a firearm for immediate self-defense. 

In addition to Senators Van Hollen, Cardin, and Murphy, this legislation is also co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.) co-sponsored the bill.

Full text of the bill can be found here.