Gun Bill Garners Bipartisan Support in Senate, House Plans Friday Vote
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate easily approved a bipartisan gun control bill Thursday night, setting the stage for final approval on Friday in the House of what many are calling the government’s most decisive response ever to the rash of gun violence in the nation.
Fifteen Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues in the Senate to advance the $13 billion Bipartisan Safer Communities Act which imposes a more lengthy background check process for gun buyers under 21, closes the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” and helps states impose red flag laws that make it easier for authorities to take weapons from people identified as dangerous.
The bill, which passed 65-33, would also fund local programs for school safety, mental health and violence prevention.
So quickly are events moving in regard to the legislation that the House Rules Committee assembled at 7 a.m. Friday morning in the Capitol to take the first steps toward advancing it to the House floor.
Actual procedural votes on the measure are expected to begin in the House Friday morning, with a final vote, sending the Act to the White House for President Joe Biden’s signature, expected sometime Friday afternoon.
In a statement released last night, Biden said, “Tonight, after 28 years of inaction, bipartisan members of Congress came together to heed the call of families across the country and passed legislation to address the scourge of gun violence in our communities.
“Families in Uvalde and Buffalo — and too many tragic shootings before — have demanded action. And tonight, we acted,” he said.
“This bipartisan legislation will help protect Americans. Kids in schools and communities will be safer because of it. The House of Representatives should promptly vote on this bipartisan bill and send it to my desk,” he added.
Heading into Friday, the bill had broad support from House Democrats, and it is anticipated that just as happened in the Senate, many Republicans will also vote for it, despite opposition from House Republican leaders.
Among these yes votes will be one cast by Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales, who represents Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman last month killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school.
In sum, the package amounts to the most significant new federal legislation to address gun violence since the expired 10-year assault weapons ban of 1994. However, it doesn’t fulfill everybody’s wishes. Among other things, it fails to ban the sale of assault rifles or any other military-style weapons.
Still, bill supporters like Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., who was part of a bipartisan group of 20 senators who signed on to an earlier framework for the measure, said last night that “this legislation will save lives.”
“If passing it saves even one child from being killed; if it saves even one family from the pain of losing a loved one; if it saves even one community from being shattered by gun violence, then it is worth doing,” Booker said.
“Although this bill is an imperfect bipartisan compromise and doesn’t do everything necessary to end America’s epidemic of gun violence, it is an important and long overdue step in the right direction and represents the most significant reforms to federal gun safety laws in three decades,” he continued.
He also went on to say passage of the bill in Congress “isn’t the end, but only the beginning of our efforts to get to where we ultimately want to go: an America with common sense gun safety policies, from universal background checks, to a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines, to expanded community violence interruption programs, and a gun licensing system.”
The Senate vote came after a year of procedural delays by Senate Republicans that stymied Democratic efforts to curb mass shootings in the U.S. that have occurred at a rate nearing one a day in 2022.
It also came after weeks of intense closed-door talks during which members of both parties sought to craft a bill that would both be meaningful and able to pass both chambers of Congress.
Commenting on the challenging balancing act the bipartisan negotiators faced, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said, “the American people want their constitutional rights protected and their kids to be safe in school.”
“They want both of those things at once, and that is just what the bill before the Senate will have accomplished,” he said.
“This is not a cure-all for all the ways gun violence affects our nation,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said. “But it is a long overdue step in the right direction.”
In an interesting twist, the vote came on the same day that the new conservative majority on the Supreme Court dramatically expanded the right of Americans to carry arms in public by striking down a New York law requiring people to prove a need to carry a weapon before they get a license to do so.
But for now, all eyes will turn to the House, which Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed “will send the bill to President Biden for his signature, with gratitude for his leadership.”
“Every day, gun violence steals lives and scars communities — and this crisis demands urgent action. While we must do more, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act is a step forward that will help protect our children and save lives,” she said.
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