Senate poised to pass first major gun safety legislation in decades following bipartisan agreement


The Senate on Tuesday made significant progress toward passing the first major federal gun safety legislation in nearly a generation.

The bill falls short of some of Democrats’ most fervent demands in the wake of several horrific mass shootings, but includes millions of dollars for mental health, school safety, crisis intervention programs crisis and incentives for states to include juvenile records in the National Instant Criminal Background. Check the system.

It also makes significant changes to the process when someone between the ages of 18 and 21 goes to buy a gun and closes the so-called boyfriend loophole, a major victory for Democrats, who have fought for a decade to that.

Procedurally, the bill still has a number of hurdles to jump through in the Senate — it faces two more key votes to smash a filibuster, then on to final passage — but it has the leader’s backing. Senate Minority Mitch McConnell, and Tuesday’s vote drew more than the minimum 10 Republican votes that will be needed to defeat a filibuster. It could pass the Senate by the end of the week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

The release of the bill’s text came after days of lawmakers haggling over several sticking points, raising questions about whether the effort would fall apart. Lawmakers must now race against time before the Senate leaves for July 4 recess in order to get the bill through the chamber.

Schumer praised bipartisan negotiators Tuesday night and said the bill represents “progress and will save lives.”

“While it’s not all we want, this legislation is urgently needed,” the New York Democrat added in his remarks to the Senate.

Regarding the timing of the legislation, Schumer said: “We will move on to final passage as soon as possible. I expect the bill to pass the Senate by the end of the week.

The bill – titled the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act – was introduced by Republican Senators John Cornyn of Texas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and Democratic Senators Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

Along with McConnell, Tillis and Cornyn, the GOP senators who voted to advance the legislation on Tuesday, according to the Senate Press Gallery, were: Joni Ernst of Iowa, Todd Young of Indiana, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Rob Portman of Ohio and Mitt Romney of Utah. McConnell, Ernst and Capito, who lead the GOP, along with Murkowski and Young, were not among the 10 Republicans who initially signed on to support the gun safety framework.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s in the legislation:

  • $750 million to help states implement and manage crisis response programs. The money can be used to implement and manage red flag programs and for other crisis intervention programs like mental health courts, drug courts and veterans courts. Whether that money could be used for things other than red flag laws had been a main sticking point. Republicans were able to get money for states that don’t have red flag laws but have other crisis response programs.
  • Closing the so-called boyfriend loophole. This legislation fills a years-old loophole in domestic violence law that prohibited people convicted of crimes of domestic violence against a married partner, or partners with whom they shared children, or partners with whom they cohabited from have guns. The old laws did not include intimate partners who could not live together, be married or share children. Now the law will prohibit anyone convicted of a crime of domestic violence against someone with whom they have a “serious and ongoing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature” from having a firearm. The law is not retroactive. However, it will allow those convicted of domestic violence offenses to restore their gun rights after five years if they have not committed other crimes. This is a key concession to Republicans.
  • Requires more gun dealers to register as federally licensed gun dealers. The bill targets people who sell firearms as their primary source of income, but who have previously avoided registering as federally licensed firearms dealers. This is important because federally licensed dealers are required to administer background checks before selling a firearm to someone.
  • More in-depth reviews of people between the ages of 18 and 21 who want to buy firearms. The bill both encourages states to include minors’ records in the nation’s instant criminal background check system with grants and implements a new protocol for checking those records. It gives NICS three days to review an individual’s case. If anything potentially disqualifying happens, the NICS gets an additional seven days. If the review is not completed by then, the arms transfer is completed.
  • Creates new federal laws against gun trafficking and straw trafficking. Makes it easier to prosecute those who buy guns for people who are not allowed to buy guns on their own.
  • Increase funding for mental health and school safety programs. This money is being directed to a series of programs, many of which already exist but would be funded more vigorously under this act.

This story and headline were updated with additional developments on Tuesday.


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