Expand Background Checks
Last week, Bishops United Against Gun Violence, a group of more than 80 Episcopal bishops working to curtail the epidemic of gun violence in the United States, gathered in Washington D.C., to continue their advocacy for the prevention of gun violence. Today, we ask you to join them in taking action to address the crisis of gun violence in this country.
The bishops met with Members of Congress and their staffs to advocate for mandatory background checks for every firearms sale. During their time on Capitol Hill, a key piece of legislation H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, passed in the House with bipartisan support. The delegation met with Republican and Democratic Members of Congress to thank them for their support of the bill.
Another critical piece of legislation, H. R. 1112, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019, also passed the House last week. H.R. 1112 would close loopholes in the background check process that allowed the shooter at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston to acquire a firearm.
We are encouraged by the bipartisan efforts to push universal background checks forward and by the House of Representatives’ commitment to address the Charleston loophole. Now, our attention turns to the Senate as we work to continue the momentum, and where a companion bill to H.R. 8 has been introduced.
The Background Check Expansion Act (S. 42, the Senate version of H.R. 8) would ensure that firearms do not end up in the hands of individuals who are not legally allowed to purchase them. This would be done by applying the same rules to all who sell firearms, including pop-up gun shows and person-to-person sales. A 2018 poll showed that 92% of Americans support universal background checks, which this bill would require. The uptick in mass shootings has catalyzed the public safety conversation around gun possession, but access to firearms plays a critical role in preventing suicide and domestic violence as well. According to the Center for Disease Control, about 60% of deaths by firearms are due to suicide and many more are killed in daily violence in communities around the country.
General Convention has resolutions dating back to 1991 including support for the Brady Bill. More recently, Episcopalians passed resolutions at the last two Conventions calling for expanded background checks and the removal of obstacles to gun violence research.
The Senate needs to hear your voice calling for more consistent background checks for all firearm sales. Reach out to your senators and urge them to support S. 42!