THE HOUSE of Representatives passed a pair of bills this week to try to bring the country closer to universal background checks for gun sales. This imperative has already won over the vast majority of voters. A filibuster-proof majority of senators, however, may prove harder to come by.

The two pieces of legislation approved Thursday would close loopholes long known to let killers slip through. The bill aimed at the so-called gun-show loophole would require unlicensed and private sellers to conduct a federal review for red flags such as a criminal record or a history of mental illness. That means online sales, private sales and, yes, gun-show sales must go through the same process as in-person sales from licensed dealers — though loans for hunting and other activities, as well as gifts by family members, would be exempted. Eight people including the perpetrator died and 25 were injured in a West Texas shooting in 2019; the shooter had purchased his rifle in a person-to-person sale after failing a federal background check.

The bill addressing the “Charleston loophole” would extend the time the FBI has to conduct a background check from the current three days to 10. Buyers are able to evade review simply because review takes too long. White supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2015; a pending felony charge didn’t prevent him from getting a gun because the FBI had missed its window.

These are only two stories among many of weapons ending up in the hands of those who aren’t supposed to have them, and these are only two gaps that need plugging in a system that has enabled so many lives needlessly to be lost. The bills now heading across Capitol Hill are a bare minimum for meaningful action. And yet similar legislation failed in 2013, and then in 2015, and then in 2019, when then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused to bring it to the floor for a vote. This time, at least, intransigent Republicans will have to show the country where they stand.

Optimism has almost become synonymous with naivete in this country’s gun debate. But the two bills attracted a sprinkling of bipartisan support in the House, and more moderate senators have expressed some willingness to expand checks — though less aggressively than these proposals would. Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) has teamed up with Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) on many of those past stymied efforts; Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has also been supportive. Those interested in saving the filibuster already have an incentive to work together to show that the Senate can do something under current rules; here, they would also save lives.

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