Lawmakers taking another crack at expanding gun checks
Former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, joined by her husband Mark Kelly, left, and Rep. Robert Dold, R-Ill., center, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 4, 2015, about bipartisan legislation on gun safety. Giffords returned to Capitol Hill to join forces with advocates of expanded criminal background checks on all commercial firearms sales. The measure is considered a longshot because of opposition by the National Rifle Association. Giffords was shot in the head during a 2011 rampage in Arizona that left six people dead and a dozen others wounded. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 06: Retired Congresswoman Gabby Giffords (L) and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, both co-founders of Americans for Responsible Solutions, speak at New York Ideas, a conference that brings together leaders from a variety of industries on May 6, 2014 in New York City. New York Ideas is hosted by The Atlantic, The Aspen Institute and New-York Historical Society. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 18: Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords throws out the first pitch at the Congressional Softball game with the help of Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), who is pitching the ball, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC Wednesday evening June 18, 2014. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 01: Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) attends a meeting with lawmakers May 1, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Giffords was on the Hill to discuss Congressional efforts to curb gun and domestic violence. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
EAST HAMPTON, NY - AUGUST 10: Gabrielle Giffords attends 9th Annual Authors Night at The East Hampton Library on August 10, 2013 in East Hampton, New York. (Photo by Scott Roth/WireImage)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 1: Former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and her husband former astronaut Captain Mark Kelly kick off their Americans for Responsible Solutions tour in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Monday, July 1, 2013. The couple met with local business owners to discuss the issue of responsible gun legislation. (Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
ANCHORAGE, AK - JULY 2: Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband astronaut Captain Mark Kelly make a stop at Resolution Park in Anchorage, Alaska, during the Americans for Responsible Solutions tour on Tuesday, July 2, 2013. (Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
BISMARCK, ND - JULY 3: Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords chats with a supporter during a stop at Kroll's Diner, during the Americans for Responsible Solutions tour in Bismarck, North Dakota, on Wednesday, July 3, 2013. At left is staffer Hayley Zachary. (Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, NY - MAY 25: Captain Mark Kelly and Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords attend Bard College's 153rd Commencement at the Seth Goldfine Memorial Rugby Field at Bard College on May 25, 2013 in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. (Photo by Steve Sands/Getty Images)
DORCHESTER, MA - MAY 5: JFK Presidential Library - Former Arizona Congresswoman and co-founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions Gabrielle Giffords was honored by Caroline Kennedy, President of the Kennedy Library Foundation, with the 2013 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award on May 5, 2013 at the JFK Presidential Library. Giffords was accompanied by her husband, Captain Mark Kelly (US Navy - Ret.), co-founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions. The JFK Profile in Courage Award is presented annually to public servants who have made courageous decisions of conscience without regard for the personal or professional consequences. (Photo by Dina Rudick/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (C-back) and former lawmaker Gabrielle Giffords (L) listen as Mark Barden (R), father of a Newtown school shooting victim, speaks during a press conference at the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, on April 17, 2013. Obama on Wednesday slammed what he called a 'minority' in the US Senate for blocking legislation that would have expanded background checks on those seeking to buy guns. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 16: From left, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., arrive for an event in the Capitol Visitor Center, to dedicate the Gabe Zimmerman Meeting Room who was killed in the 2011 Tucson shootings that also injured Barber and Giffords, who was Zimmerman's boss. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Former Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly attend a dedication ceremony naming a Capitol Visitor Center conference room in honor of slain Giffords' aide Gabe Zimmerman at the US Capitol in Washington on April 16, 2013. Zimmerman was killed in the January 2011 shooting that left 6 dead and Giffords severely wounded at an event in Tucson, Arizona. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
TUCSON, AZ - MARCH 06: Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords attends a news conference outside Safeway grocery store where they asked Congress to provide stricter gun control in the United States on March 6, 2013 in Tucson, Arizona. Giffords and Kelly were joined by survivors of the Tucson shooting that took place there two years ago when six people were killed and Giffords herself was shot in the head. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
TUCSON, AZ - MARCH 06: Mark Kelly leans his head on the shoulder of his wife and former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords as they attend a news conference asking Congress and the Senate to provide stricter gun control in the United States on March 6, 2013 in Tucson, Arizona. Giffords and Kelly were joined by survivors of the Tucson shooting as they spoke outside the Safeway grocery store where the shooting happened two years ago where six people were killed. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, pauses while speaking during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill January 30, 2013 in Washington, DC. The committee held the hearings to discuss possible solutions to gun violence in the United States. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 30: Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., center, is greeted by Senators as she arrives to testify the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on 'What Should America Do About Gun Violence?' on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013. From left around Giffords are Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Al Franken, D-Minn. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-NV) walks on stage with Democratic National Committee Chair, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords accept her award during the Intrepid Museum's 21st annual 'Salute to Freedom' dinner May 24, 2012 in New York. AFP PHOTO / DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/GettyImages)
ABC NEWS - In a broadcast exclusive, Diane Sawyer chronicles Congresswoman Gabrielle GiffordsÃ journey to recover from her near fatal injury, with her husband Mark Kelly by her side. The broadcast will also document the coupleÃs courtship, marriage, and extraordinary careers in public service. The Diane Sawyer special will air on MONDAY, NOV. 14 (10-11PM, ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images)GABRIELLE GIFFORDS
FILE - This Oct. 27, 2013, file photo, shows former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), at a fundraiser for U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Braley at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa. As the race between Rep. Ron Barber D- Ariz., who also was wounded in the 2011 shooting, and Republican Martha McSally has grown tighter in the final weeks before the Nov. 4, 2014, elections, Giffords is playing more of a role by appearing in ads and raising money for her former aide and increasingly turning the race into a debate about guns. (AP Photo/Scott Morgan, File)
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WASHINGTON (AP) - Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is returning to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to help kick-start a longshot campaign to expand criminal background checks to all commercial firearms sales.
Similar legislation that sought to expand background checks failed to get a hearing in the House last session. With the GOP expanding its majority and winning control of the Senate, prospects for the bill may be even more unlikely this session.
Still, Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson of California predicted the legislation would pass if GOP leadership would let it come to the House floor for a vote. Congress passed record funding for background checks in the last session, he said.
"If they are willing to fund the system at historic levels, they should support using the system," Thompson said.
Under the current system, cashiers at stores selling guns call in to check with the FBI or other designated agencies to ensure the customer doesn't have a criminal background. Many lawmakers want to expand such checks to sales at gun shows and purchases made through the Internet.
The National Rifle Association opposes expanding background checks. The organization says many people sent to prison because of gun crimes get their guns through theft or the black market, and no amount of background checks can stop those criminals.
While Congress has declined to pass expanded background checks for firearm purchases, five states have done so since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in December 2012. They are Washington, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware and New York, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
Giffords and Kelly, a former NASA space shuttle commander, founded Americans for Responsible Solutions. The organization advocates for stricter gun laws. They are both scheduled to be at the news conference with Thompson and a handful of other lawmakers on Wednesday. The Arizona Democrat has become an increasingly active player in the gun-control movement since being shot in the head as she met with constituents in Tucson nearly four years ago.
The legislation that ushered in background checks for guns bought from federal licensed dealers was named after James Brady, the press secretary to President Ronald Reagan who was shot in the head in 1981 and died last year.
"We fought a long, hard battle to pass the Brady Bill with bipartisan support in 1993 and now we simply need to finish the job!" said Sarah Brady, co-founder of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.