A bipartisan gun violence bill that seemed unimaginable a month ago is close to getting final Congressional approval, a vote that will give lawmakers the most sweeping response in decades to brutal mass shootings that shocked but not surprised Americans.
The House of Representatives was due to vote on a $13 billion package on Friday, exactly one month after a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Just days earlier, a white man motivated by racism allegedly killed 10 black grocery shoppers in Buffalo, New York.
The two massacres — days apart and helpless casualties for whom the public immediately felt sympathy — prompted both sides to conclude that Congress must act, especially in an election year. After weeks of behind-closed-door negotiations, bipartisan Senate negotiators have reached a compromise, taking gentle but effective steps to make such a mess less likely.
“Families in Uvalda and Buffalo and too many tragic shootings in the past called for action. And tonight we acted,” President Joe Biden said after the passage. He said the House of Representatives should send it to him as soon as possible, adding: “Because of this, children in schools and communities will be safer.”
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The law will tighten background checks on the youngest gun buyers, keep firearms away from more domestic violence offenders, and help states enact red flag laws that will make it easier for authorities to seize guns from people deemed dangerous. It will also fund local school safety, mental health, and violence prevention programs.
The Senate approved the measure Thursday 65-33. Fifteen Republicans – an astounding number for a party that has been violating arms restrictions for years – joined all 50 Democrats, including two of their independent allies, in passing the bill.
However, this meant that less than one-third of GOP senators supported the measure. And with Republicans in the House of Representatives expected to strongly oppose it, the fate of future congressional action on guns seems doubtful, even as the Republican Party is expected to gain control of the House and possibly the Senate for a November elections.
Upper house Republicans called for a no vote in an email from Republican Party leader #2 Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana. He called the bill “an attempt to gradually curtail the rights of law-abiding citizens under the Second Amendment.”
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While the bill is notable for its contrast to years of stalemate in Washington, it falls far short of the tighter gun restrictions that Democrats have been pushing for and Republicans have thwarted for years. These included bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, which were used in the Buffalo and Uvalda killings.
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However, the agreement allows the leaders of both parties in the Senate to declare victory and show voters that they know how to compromise and make the government work, and leaves each side free to reach out to their core supporters.
“This is not a panacea for all the ways in which gun violence affects our country,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., whose party has made gun restrictions a goal for decades. “But it’s a long overdue step in the right direction.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, alluding to the Second Amendment right to bear arms that drives many conservative voters, said that “the American people want their constitutional rights to be protected and their children to be safe in school.” “.
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The day turned out to be bittersweet for gun violence reduction advocates. Underscoring the enduring strength of the conservative regime, the right-wing Supreme Court issued a ruling that expanded Americans’ right to carry guns in public by overturning a New York law requiring people to prove they need to carry guns before they get a license to carry guns. Do it in this way.
Hours before the final passage, the Senate voted 65 to 34 to end the filibustering of conservative GOP senators to destroy legislation. This is five more than the required threshold of 60 votes.
However, the Senate vote highlighted the wariness of most Republicans about challenging pro-gun party voters and pro-gun groups such as the National Rifle Association. Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Todd Young of Indiana were the only two of 15 candidates for re-election this fall. Of the rest, four are retiring, and eight will not appear before voters until 2026.
Tellingly, among the GOP senators who voted “no” were such potential 2024 presidential candidates as Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, and Tim Scott of South Carolina. Cruz said the law would “disarm law-abiding citizens rather than take serious action to protect our children.”
The negotiations that resulted in the bill were led by Senators Chris Murphy of Connecticut, Kirsten Cinema of Arizona, John Cornyn of Texas, and Tom Tillis of North Carolina. Murphy represented Newtown, Connecticut when an assailant killed 20 students and six Sandy Hook Elementary School staff in 2012, while Cornyn has been involved in past gun talks since the mass shootings in his state and is close to McConnell.
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The bill would make local records of minors between the ages of 18 and 20 available during mandatory federal background checks when they try to buy guns. These reviews, which are currently limited to three days, will last a maximum of 10 days to give federal and local authorities time to search for records.
People convicted of domestic violence who are current or former romantic partners of the victim will be prohibited from acquiring firearms, closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole.”
This ban currently only applies to people who are married, living with the victim, or having children with the victim.
There would be money to help states enforce red flag laws and, for other states without them, for violence prevention programs. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have such laws.
The measure expands the use of background checks by rewriting the definition of federally licensed gun dealers required to conduct them. Punishments for gun trafficking are tougher, billions of dollars are being given to mental health clinics and school mental health programs, and money is being given to school safety initiatives, but not to staff using “dangerous weapons.”
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