‘Bipartisan Breakthrough’ Reached on Senate Gun Safety Bill
WASHINGTON — Senators reached an agreement on Tuesday night to advance bipartisan legislation aimed at curbing violent offenders’ access to firearms.
The legislation passed an initial procedural process in the Senate after 14 Republicans joined all 48 Democrats and two independents in approving the measure. Despite 34 Republicans voting against the motion, it appears to have enough support to invoke cloture and thwart the filibuster.
The bill, entitled the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, represents the outcome of weeklong negotiations in the upper chamber to find a compromise on gun safety issues. The agreed-to legislation would set new standards for purchasing and possessing firearms while also providing funding for crisis intervention services and community mental health services, among other provisions.
In building off of the framework the Senators first unveiled last week, the legislation intends to:
- Institute a more strenuous process for background checks, including the expansion of background checks for prospective gun buyers between the ages of 18 and 21 and establishing a three-business-day investigative period for buyers who are under the age of 21.
- Allocate around $15 billion in funding for various measures including the support of crisis intervention services such as the implementation of state “Red Flag” laws and community-based violence intervention programs.
- Expand the prohibition against domestic abusers from purchasing or possessing firearms to include those who are in continuing serious relationships of a romantic or intimate nature.
- Defines what it means to be “engaged in the business” of firearms sales to clarify existing law on who must run a background check on purchasers.
- Establish the first federal statute against interstate gun trafficking and straw purchasing.
- Create a federal clearinghouse on evidence-based practices for school safety within the Department of Health and Human Services.
Although the bill doesn’t contain many of the tougher provisions Democrats had called for to curb gun violence, such as a federal ban on “assault weapons” or outlawing high-capacity magazines, the deal appears to have the crucial support of at least 10 Republicans needed to advance it from the Senate.
Additionally, the bill establishes a new process that incentivizes states to grant access to juvenile records which could increase the waiting period prior to gun purchases. If passed, it will grant Democrats’ wishes for closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole” while satisfying Republicans’ calls for improved mental health resource allocations.
Public sentiment for enhanced gun safety measures remains high in the country following a rash of gun-related violence across the nation, including 278 mass shootings so far this year alone, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
Polling by Pew Research found that 53% of Americans favored enacting stricter gun laws, while polling from Reuters one day after the school shooting in Uvalde found roughly two-thirds of United States citizens supported moderate or strong regulations of gun ownership — including 53% of Republicans surveyed.
“I think we have found some areas where there’s space for compromise, and we’ve also found that there are some red lines and no middle ground,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the lead Republican negotiator on the bill, said in remarks from the Senate floor. “We’ve talked, we’ve debated, we disagreed, and finally we reached an agreement among the four of us.”
Sen. Mitch McConnell, the minority leader of the Senate, issued a statement on Tuesday indicating his approval of the bill. McConnell said the bill would make “horrifying incidents” like the one experienced in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24 less likely while still sustaining law-abiding citizens’ Second Amendment rights.
Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., previously told reporters on Capitol Hill he expects a final vote approving the bill to come sometime this week. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety and Third Way each published statements praising the Senate agreement.
“I believe that this week we will pass legislation that will become the most significant piece of anti-gun violence legislation Congress will have passed in 30 years,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., the lead Democratic negotiator, said in remarks from the Senate floor. “This is a breakthrough and, more importantly, it is a bipartisan breakthrough.”