The U.S. Senate on Thursday easily approved a bipartisan gun violence bill that seemed unthinkable just a month ago, clearing the way for final Congressional approval of what will be the most far-reaching lawmakers’ response in decades to the nation’s brutal mass shootings.
After years of GOP procedural delays that thwarted Democrats’ efforts to curb firearms, Democrats and some Republicans have decided that congressional inaction was untenable after last month’s rampage in New York and Texas. It took weeks of closed-door negotiations, but a bipartisan group of senators came to a compromise that epitomized a gradual but effective movement to curb the bloodshed that regularly shocks but no longer surprises the nation.
The $13 billion measure will tighten background checks for 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.
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The election year package is a far cry from the stricter gun restrictions that Democrats have been pushing for years, including bans on assault weapons and the high-capacity ammo magazines used in the Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas murders. However, the agreement allows the leaders of both parties to declare victory and show voters that they know how to compromise and get the government to 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 this is a long overdue step in the right direction. Passing this gun safety bill is really important and it will save lives.”
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.” “. He said “they want both at the same time, and that’s what the bill before the Senate will achieve.”
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The day turned out to be bittersweet for gun violence reduction advocates. Highlighting the enduring strength of the conservative regime, the right-wing Supreme Court ruled to expand the right of Americans to bear arms in public. Judges struck down a New York law that required people to prove they had to carry guns before they could get a license to do so.
The final pass vote was 65-33.
Hours earlier, Senators voted 65-34 to end the filibustering of conservative Republican senators. This is five more than the required threshold of 60 votes. The House of Representatives was scheduled to vote on the measure on Friday, and its approval seemed imminent.
In that vote, 15 Senate Republicans joined all 50 Democrats, including two of their independent allies, in voting to move the bill forward.
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However, that vote highlighted the risks Republicans face in challenging pro-gun party voters and pro-gun groups like 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 Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, and Tim Scott of South Carolina. Some of the party’s more conservative members also voted no, including Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah.
While the Senate measure was a clear breakthrough, the outlook for congressional gun control to continue is dim.
Less than one-third of the 50 Republican Senate senators backed the measure, and there is strong Republican opposition in the House of Representatives. House Republicans called for a no vote in an email from Republican Party leader #2 Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, which called the bill “an attempt to slowly curtail the rights of law-abiding citizens enshrined in the Second Amendment.”
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Both houses – currently narrowly controlled by Democrats – could very well be controlled by the Republican Party after the November midterm elections.
In a statement, President Joe Biden said the people of Uvalde told him when he visited that Washington must act. “With this law, our children in schools and our communities will be safer. I call on Congress to finish the job and bring this bill to my desk,” Biden said.
The Senate action comes one month after a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde. Just days earlier, a white man had been accused of racist motives when he killed 10 black grocery shoppers in Buffalo. Both shooters were 18 years old, had a youthful profile common to many mass shooters, and the close timing of the two murders and victims many could identify with prompted voters to act, lawmakers in both parties said.
Negotiators were 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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Murphy said the measure would save thousands of lives and provide a chance to “prove to the weary American public that democracy is not so broken that it cannot rise to the moment.”
“I don’t believe in doing nothing in the face of what we saw in Uvald” and elsewhere, Kornin said.
The bill would make local records of minors between the ages of 18 and 20 available during mandatory federal background checks when they attempt to purchase 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.”
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This prohibition currently only applies to people who are married, living with the victim, or having children with the victim. The Compromise Bill would extend this to those deemed to have had “permanent serious relationships”.
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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