A Senate committee approved a proposal Tuesday to greatly expand background checks on gun purchases, with U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, joining other Republicans in opposing it.
The measure, which would require a background check for nearly all private gun sales, probably will not remain in its present form. Its sponsor, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., acknowledged that, saying Tuesday he is negotiating with other lawmakers on changes, including to provisions dealing with the reporting of lost or stolen weapons and exceptions from the checks for certain transfers between family members.
The background check bill is one of four pieces of legislation that are being contemplated in the Senate in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, where 20 children and six adults were shot to death in Newtown, Conn.
Grassley, who is the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, raised several objections to the background check proposal. As he did last week, he said the measure eventually would lead to gun confiscation. Grassley cited a memo from a Justice Department official who said expanded background checks won’t work without registration.
“When registration fails, the next move will be gun confiscation,” Grassley said Tuesday.
That brought a sharp response from Schumer, who argued neither he nor other proponents are seeking to register or confiscate guns. He cited the 20-year-old law requiring background checks when guns are bought from federally licensed firearms dealers.
“The bottom line is, the Brady law, by almost universal agreement, has been extremely successful, extremely successful, without impinging on the rights of legitimate gun owners,” Schumer said. “We have a track record of history.”
Backers of the new proposal say a significant number of gun purchases are made from sources other than federally licensed dealers.
Grassley also raised objections about how law-abiding citizens would be affected by requirements that lost or stolen guns be reported within 24 hours and language intended to exempt some family transactions from the proposal’s requirements. He said the proposal “greatly restricts” the rights of law-abiding citizens, and he raised the prospect that the bill would even prohibit a person from taking a new gun to a friend’s home to let him handle it.
Proponents of the new gun laws say critics are overstating the impact of checks, and they cite widespread support in public opinion polls. Some pro-gun control groups have been running advertising and engaging Iowa activists to try to pressure Grassley into supporting the proposals.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill, who also is a member of the committee, joined other Democrats in backing the expanded background checks.
Also Tuesday, the committee supported a bill from Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., aimed at boosting school safety. All the Democrats supported the measure, and so did some Republicans, including Grassley, who also voted last week in the committee for a proposal aimed at curbing gun trafficking and straw purchases.
The more controversial proposal to ban what critics call assault-style weapons didn’t go before the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. It is scheduled to come up Thursday.