Marking Parkland, activists call for federal background checks


The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote next week on legislation that would strengthen federal background checks on all firearms sales nationwide. U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, a Democrat from Glen Cove, was joined by activists from Moms Demand Action and New Yorkers Against Gun Violence at his district office in Huntington on Tuesday to urge swift passage of H.R. 8, also known as the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019.

Among the activists who appeared with Suozzi was Linda Beigel Schulman, of Dix Hills. Her son, Scott Beigel, was one of 17 people killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., a year ago. He was 35.

“While the state of New York recently passed reasonable gun-control legislation, Congress has not done so in over 10 years,” Beigel Schulman said. “H.R. 8 is truly a bipartisan attempt to pass common-sense gun control legislation.” The bill recently passed the House Judiciary Committee and has 231 co-sponsors, including Suozzi. Five of those co-sponsors, including U.S. Rep. Peter King, of Seaford, are Republican.

“There is no single law that can put an end to mass shootings or gun violence, but . . . when background checks are used they keep guns out of the hands of people we all agree shouldn’t have guns,” King said in a statement. “As government officials it is our responsibility to protect our citizens, and when it comes to gun violence we must do more.”

“Safety from gun violence is not a partisan issue,” Beigel Schulman added.

The legislation would require background checks for every gun sale or transfer conducted in the U.S., with exceptions for hunting, target shooting or self-defense. Although federal law requires licensed gun dealers to conduct background checks through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, it does not regulate unlicensed gun sellers. H.R. 8 would require them to use the same system, and sell or transfer firearms through licensed dealers.

Suozzi said the bill would also close the “gun show loophole.” “Some folks go to gun shows, and they have private sales that are not with federally registered dealers, and they can sell guns to each other without going through the background check process,” he explained. “This also goes for guns that are purchased online."

Last month, New York state lawmakers passed a law requiring gun dealers to wait 30 days after initiating a background check before selling a gun to a buyer. Previously, if no response came back within three days, the gun had to be sold.

Suozzi said he was confident that the bill would pass the House, but he acknowledged that it would face a challenge in the Senate. “It’s going to require exactly what the folks here have been doing for a long time, which is to go out and talk to individual members of the Senate as to why this bill is so important,” he said.

Activist Mary Beth Baxter, of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, acknowledged the state’s progress in strengthening gun-safety measures, but did not discount the necessity for sweeping background-check legislation nationwide.

“[In] 70 percent of the gun crimes committed in New York state, those guns are originating from outside of New York state,” Baxter said. “Universal background checks are paramount to safety.”