Posted 7 months ago
The Senate voted to advance bipartisan gun legislation on Tuesday, with hopes of passing it prior to the July 4 recess.
All 50 members of the Democratic caucus joined 14 Republicans in moving the legislation forward. The bill comes after a number of mass shootings, most notably in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas.
The 80-page Bipartisan Safer Communities Act would encourage states to keep guns out of the hands of those deemed to be dangerous and tighten background checks for would-be gun purchasers convicted of domestic violence or significant crimes as juveniles.
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act falls short of more expansive proposals passed by Democrats in the House and is already facing opposition from top House Republicans. Should it become law, however, the bill would be the most sweeping gun safety legislation passed by Congress in decades.
The bill’s chief negotiators — Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C. — released a joint statement celebrating the agreement.
“Today, we finalized bipartisan, commonsense legislation to protect America’s children, keep our schools safe, and reduce the threat of violence across our country,” they said. “Our legislation will save lives and will not infringe on any law-abiding Americans’ Second Amendment rights. We look forward to earning broad, bipartisan support and passing our commonsense legislation into law.”
Under the legislation, $750 million would be allotted over the next five years to help states implement red flag laws, which allow authorities to temporarily confiscate guns from individuals deemed a threat to themselves or others. (Similar laws already exist in 19 states and the District of Columbia.) The legislation allows for the implementation of these programs through mental health, drug and veterans’ courts.
Republicans involved in the negotiations pushed to make sure no one is flagged without “the right to an in-person hearing, an unbiased adjudicator, the right to know opposing evidence, the right to present evidence, and the right to confront adverse witnesses,” as well as a right to bring counsel to the hearing.
“Under this bill, every state will be able to use significant new federal dollars to be able to expand their programs to try to stop dangerous people, people contemplating mass murder or suicide, from being able to have access to the weapons that allow them to perpetrate that crime,” Murphy said in a floor speech.
While spouses, co-parents or cohabitating partners convicted of domestic violence are already banned from purchasing firearms, abusers in relationships between people who are not married and live separately are still able to purchase guns, creating the so-called “boyfriend loophole.” Under the new legislation, anyone convicted of domestic violence against a former or current dating partner would be banned from purchasing a weapon.
The legislation calls for an expansion of background checks into buyers under 21 years of age, providing three business days for the check into their criminal and mental health history to be completed. If that background check finds something questionable in a potential buyer’s record, the legislation would provide for an additional seven business days to look into the buyer.
The bill provides funding for expanding access to mental health services, including making it easier for Americans on Medicaid to use telehealth services and work with “community-based mental health and substance use disorder treatment providers and organizations.” And it would provide additional funding for the national suicide prevention hotline (since guns accounted for a majority of suicide deaths in 2020) while schools would receive funding to increase the number of staff members providing mental health services.
The legislation would also require more sellers to register as “Federally Licensed Firearm Dealers,” including anyone who sells guns to “predominantly earn a profit.” These sellers would in turn be required to run background checks on potential buyers and keep records of the sales.
The bill would also impose penalties on “straw” purchasers who buy guns for people who can’t pass a background check.
Topic: US News
Tags: Gun Control Bipartisan Safer Communities Act