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Gun Safety Bill: Senate Passes First Major Federal Gun Safety Legislation in Decades

The bill passed as some Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the measure, marking a significant bipartisan breakthrough on one of the nation’s most contentious political issues. The bill will then go to a vote in the House before it can be sent to President Joe Biden for signing into law.

The bipartisan gun deal includes millions of dollars for mental health, school safety, crisis intervention programs and incentives for states to include juvenile records in the national system of instant criminal background check.

The package represents the most significant new federal legislation to address gun violence since the 10-year assault weapons ban expired in 1994 – although it does not ban any weapons and falls well short of what Democrats and polls show most Americans want to see.

There were a few dozen people in the Senate gallery before the final vote. The senators had noted that there were survivors of gun violence, family members and groups present to watch the historic vote in the chamber.

The vote on the federal gun safety bill came on the same day the Supreme Court struck down a New York gun law enacted more than a century ago that imposes restrictions about carrying a concealed handgun outside the home.

The decision highlights the conflicting political forces surrounding the issue at all levels of government, as the judiciary implements the broadest expansion of gun rights in a decade, occurring just as the legislature seems on track to adopt its most significant gun safety package in almost 30 years.

A critical vote that required GOP support

The gun safety bill had moved closer to passing in the Senate earlier in the day after a critical vote succeeded in pushing the measure forward with Republican support.

The vote was 65 to 34, with 15 GOP senators joining Democrats in breaking the filibuster.

GOP “yes” votes include the 10 Senate Republicans who signed an initial gun safety framework agreement: John Cornyn of Texas, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr of Carolina North, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. Four of the original 10 Republican supporters are retiring this year: Blunt, Burr, Portman and Toomey.

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell makes sense. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, who are leading the GOP, also voted to smash a filibuster on the bill.

Other notable GOP votes include the senses. Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Indiana’s Todd Young, who were not among the 10 Republicans who originally signed on to support the framework and are re-elected in November.

The House will then have to seize the bill. It is not yet known how quickly the bill could pass through both chambers, but the House could consider the bill on Friday.

The legislation was passed following the recent and tragic mass shootings at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, which was in a predominantly black neighborhood.

A bipartisan group of negotiators got to work in the Senate and unveiled legislation on Tuesday. 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.

Lawmakers are now racing to pass the bill before leaving Washington for the July 4 recess.

The fact that the text of the bill has been finalized and the legislation now looks set to pass the Senate is a major victory for negotiators who have come together to strike a deal.

The bipartisan effort appeared to be on thin ice after several key sticking points emerged, but ultimately negotiators were able to resolve the issues that arose. The deal marks a rare example of cross-party compromise on one of the most contentious issues in Washington — a feat in today’s highly polarized political environment.

Reaching bipartisan agreement on major gun legislation has been notoriously difficult for lawmakers in recent years, even in the face of countless mass shootings across the country.

“For too long, political games in Washington on both sides of the aisle have stalled progress toward protecting our communities and keeping families safe,” Sinema said Wednesday in a Senate address.

“Laying blame and trading barbs and political attacks have become the path of least resistance, but the communities across our country who have suffered senseless violence deserve better than Washington politics as usual,” said the Arizona Democrat. “Our communities deserve a commitment from their leaders to do the hard work of putting politics aside, identifying issues that need to be resolved, and working together toward common ground and common goals.”

Main provisions of the bill

The bill includes $750 million to help states implement and manage crisis response programs. The money can be used to implement and manage whistleblower programs – which can temporarily prevent people in crisis from accessing firearms through a court order – and for other programs crisis intervention such as mental health courts, drug courts and veterans courts.

This bill closes a years-old loophole in domestic violence law — the “boyfriend loophole” — that prevented those convicted of crimes of domestic violence against married partners, or partners with who they shared children or partners with whom they cohabited, to have guns. The old laws did not include intimate partners who could not live together, be married or share children. Now the law will make it illegal for anyone convicted of a crime of domestic violence against someone with whom they have a “continuing serious relationship of a romantic or intimate nature” to have 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.

The bill 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.

The bill targets individuals who sell guns as their primary source of income, but who have previously avoided registering as federally licensed gun dealers. It also increases funding for mental health and school safety programs.

GOP divided on bill

A split has emerged between some prominent members of the House and Senate GOP leadership.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he supports the bipartisan gun deal. But top House Republican leaders oppose the bill and are urging their members to vote “no” even as the Senate heads to pass the bill this week.

But even with House GOP leaders opposing the bill, some House Republicans have already indicated they plan to vote for it, and the Democratic-controlled chamber should be able to pass the bill. legislation once it has been passed in the Senate.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised to “get it quickly to the floor” of the House once it passes the Senate, “so that we can send it to President Biden’s office.”

“While more is needed, this package must quickly become law to help protect our children,” Pelosi said in a statement.

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

CNN’s Daniella Diaz and Tierney Sneed contributed.

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