What Is HR8? Bipartisan Background Checks Bill Thwarted in Senate

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr strongly criticized Republican Senators on Tuesday for holding up the passage of legislation that would tighten background checks on gun sales.

Kerr made the remarks in response to the deadly elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that left at least 19 children and two adults dead. The alleged gunman, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was reportedly killed by law enforcement at the scene.

Refusing to discuss basketball at a press conference, Kerr instead took aim at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and other senators.

"I ask all of you senators who refuse to do anything about the violence and school shootings and supermarket shootings – I ask you, 'Are you going to put your own desire for power ahead of the lives of our children and our elderly and our churchgoers?'" Kerr asked.

He also made direct reference to a piece of legislation called House Resolution (HR) 8 that has been passed by the House of Representatives but has not yet been subject to a Senate vote.

"We're being held hostage by 50 senators in Washington who refuse to even put it to a vote, despite what we, the American people, want," Kerr said. "They won't vote on it, because they want to hold on to their own power. It's pathetic."

The current version of HR8 is the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021. The bill was originally introduced in 2019 by Democratic Representative Mike Thompson of California's 5th district and passed with some bipartisan support.

It did not receive a vote in the Senate and Thompson reintroduced the legislation in 2021. It passed the House on March 11, 2021, by a bipartisan vote of 227 to 203, with eight Republicans voting in favor and one Democrat against.

According to Thompson, the bill "would expand background checks to be required on all firearm sales, closing the gun show and online sales loopholes."

The bill would require background checks on firearms sales or transfers throughout the U.S. Background checks are not currently required for sales or transfers by unlicensed and private sellers.

Thompson, who has previously said he is a gun owner and supporter of the Second Amendment, is chairman of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. He has held that role since the task force was set up in 2012 following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults.

In December 2021, Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) sought unanimous consent for HR8, but Republicans refused his request. Murphy delivered impassioned remarks on the Senate floor on Tuesday following the Texas shooting.

The Senate has not yet held a vote on HR8, but the chamber has received the legislation and the bill was read for the first time on Tuesday and has been placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar.

It remains to be seen if the bill will come up for a vote as the Senate consists of 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and two independents who caucus with the Democrats. Sixty votes are needed to end debate and proceed with a vote on legislation, and the Senate did not vote on HR8 in 2019.

 Steve Kerr of The Golden State Warriors
Head coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors is shown with the U.S. Capitol building. Kerr has criticized senators for not passing a background checks bill that passed the House of Representatives last year. Jamie Schwaberow//Getty