The US Senate easily approved a bipartisan gun violence bill that seemed unthinkable just a month ago, paving the way for final congressional approval of what will be lawmakers’ most ambitious response in decades. to mass shootings.
After years of GOP procedural delays that have derailed Democratic gun control efforts, Democrats and some Republicans have decided congressional inaction is untenable after last month’s rampages in New York and Texas. It took weeks of closed-door talks, but a group of senators from both parties emerged Thursday with a compromise embodying a gradual but impactful move to curb the bloodshed that regularly shocks — but no longer surprises — the nation. .
The $13 billion measure would strengthen background checks for younger gun buyers, keep guns out of more domestic violent offenders and help states implement red flag laws that make it easier for the authorities to take weapons from people deemed dangerous. It would also fund local programs for school safety, mental health and violence prevention.
The election-year package fell well short of tougher gun restrictions Democrats have been seeking for years, including a ban on assault-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines used in killings. in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas. Still, the deal allowed leaders of both parties to declare victory and demonstrate to voters that they know how to compromise and make government work, while giving each side room to appeal to their core supporters. .
“This is not a panacea for all of the ways gun violence affects our nation,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, whose Democratic Party has made gun reform a goal ever since. decades. “But it 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, in a nod to the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms that motivates many conservative voters, said, “The American people want their constitutional rights protected and that her children are safe at school. They want both of these things, and that is exactly what the bill before the Senate will have accomplished.
The day turned out to be bittersweet for proponents of gun violence reduction. Underscoring the enduring power of conservative influence, the right-wing Supreme Court issued a ruling expanding Americans’ right to bear arms in public. Judges struck down a New York law that required people to prove they needed to carry a gun before getting a license to do so.
The vote on the final pass was 65-33.
Hours earlier, senators voted 65 to 34 to end the filibuster by conservative GOP senators. That was five more than the 60-vote threshold needed. The House was expected to vote on the measure on Friday and approval seemed certain.
In that vote, 15 Senate Republicans joined 50 Democrats, including their two allied independents, in voting to push the legislation forward.
Still, this vote highlighted the risks Republicans face in challenging the party’s pro-gun voters and gun groups like the National Rifle Association. Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Todd Young of Indiana were the only two of 15 to be re-elected this fall. Of the rest, four are retiring and eight won’t face voters until 2026.
Tellingly, GOP senators voting “no” included potential 2024 presidential candidates like 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 Kentucky’s Rand Paul and Utah’s Mike Lee.
While the Senate measure was a clear breakthrough, the prospects for continued congressional movement on gun curbs are bleak.
Less than a third of the 50 GOP senators supported the measure and a strong Republican opposition is certain in the House. Leading House Republicans urged a “no” vote in an email from GOP Leader No. 2 Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who called the bill “an effort to slowly roll back the rights of second amendment law-abiding citizens”.
Both chambers — now tightly controlled by Democrats — could be led by the GOP after November’s midterm elections.
President Joe Biden said in a statement that residents of Uvalde told him during his visit that Washington needed to act.
“Our children in schools and our communities will be safer thanks to this legislation. I call on Congress to finish the job and bring this bill to my desk,” Biden said.
The Senate action came a month after a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde. Days earlier, a white man was accused of being racially motivated when he killed 10 black grocers in Buffalo. Both shooters were 18, a youthful profile shared by many mass shooters, and the close timing of the two massacres and the victims many could identify with sparked a demand for action from voters, it said. lawmakers from both parties.
The talks were led by Democratic Senators Chris Murphy and Kyrsten Sinema and Republicans John Cornyn and Thom Tillis. Murphy represented Newtown, Connecticut when an attacker killed 20 students and six staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, while Cornyn was embroiled in gun talks after shootings mass in his condition and is close to McConnell.
Murphy said the measure would save thousands of lives and was a chance to “prove to a weary American public that democracy isn’t so broken that it can’t rise to the moment.”
“I don’t believe in doing anything about what we saw in Uvalde” and elsewhere, Cornyn said.
The bill would make local juvenile records of people between the ages of 18 and 20 available during required federal background checks when attempting to purchase firearms. These reviews, currently limited to three days, would last up to 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 would be prohibited from acquiring firearms, thus closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole”.
This ban currently only applies to people who are married to, living with, or have had children with the victim. The compromise bill would extend this to those deemed to have had “a continuing serious relationship”.
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 arms dealers needed to perform them. Penalties for gun trafficking are getting tougher, billions of dollars are being allocated to behavioral health clinics and mental health programs in schools, and there’s money for safe schools initiatives , but not for staff to use a “dangerous weapon”.