Conference Coverage

House committee passes AMA-endorsed firearm bill



– A bill requiring universal background checks for firearm purchases passed the House Judiciary committee and is expected to pass the full House of Representatives when it comes up for consideration.

Rep. Mike Thompson (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, Gregory Twachtman/MDedge

Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.)

Rep. Mike Thompson (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, thanked the American Medical Association for its endorsement and support of the bill a day before its Feb. 13 committee passage during a speech at a national advocacy conference sponsored by the AMA.

“The new legislation, H.R. 8, which you have endorsed, would put in place universal background checks,” Rep. Thompson said. “This means anybody who buys a gun would have to go through a background check to make sure they are not a criminal, to make sure they are not dangerously mentally ill and a danger to themselves or others.”

The committee passed the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 by a 23-15 vote. It would require a background check on all firearms transfers, including private sales, with limited exemptions for firearms given as gifts between family members and those transferred for hunting, target shooting, and self-defense.

A second bill, the Enhanced Background Checks Act (H.R. 1112), passed 21-14 during the same session. That bill would close a loophole that currently allows a licensed dealer to transfer a firearm after 3 days if the background check system has not yet reported back.

Rep. Thompson credited the newest members of Congress with pushing these bills to the forefront.

“During the last midterm election, there was a sea change in attitude around gun violence prevention,” Rep. Thompson noted. “All 40 members of the Democratic-elected class who took a seat ran on gun violence prevention. So they came to Washington with more of a willingness to deal with this issue.”

H.R. 8 has 231 cosponsors – 226 Democrats and 5 Republicans – meaning it has more than enough support to pass in the full House, should all cosponsors remain on board.

Getting the bill passed in the Republican-controlled Senate will be a challenge and Rep. Thompson encouraged doctors to continue their advocacy on this legislation.

“You guys have been fabulous,” he said. “Without your help, we would not be where we are today. I can tell you that this bill will pass the House within the first 100 days and will go to the Senate. That is when you will have to start working again. ... Once it goes to the Senate, there is going to be a reluctance to take it up. We need to make sure that every U.S. senator hears from every doc and every doc’s family and every doc’s friend and every doc’s assistant and everybody else and their brother that this important so we can turn up the heat and make sure they take up the issue of background checks. It works. It saves lives.”

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