WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) — The Senate on Thursday effortlessly approved a bipartisan gun violence bill that seemed unthinkable just a month ago, securing final approval for what will be the most far-reaching congressional response in decades to the nation’s brutal mass shootings.
After years of futile efforts by Democrats to rein in firearms, 15 Republicans have joined as both sides decided that inaction was untenable after last month’s riots in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas. It took weeks of closed-door negotiations, but the senators reached a compromise that represented 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.
“Families in Uvalda and Buffalo and too many tragic shootings in the past called for action. And tonight we acted,” President Joe Biden said after the passage. He said the House of Representatives should send it to him as soon as possible, adding: “Because of this, children in schools and communities will be safer.”
The election year package is a far cry from the tighter gun restrictions that Democrats have been pushing for and Republicans have thwarted for years, including bans on assault weapons and the high-capacity ammo magazines used in the Buffalo and Uvalda killings. 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 it’s a long overdue step in the right direction.”
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.”
The day turned out to be bittersweet for gun violence reduction advocates. Underscoring the enduring strength of the conservative regime, the right-wing Supreme Court issued a ruling that expanded Americans’ right to carry guns in public by overturning a New York law requiring people to prove they need to carry guns before they get a license to carry guns. Do it in this way.
McConnell hailed the judges’ decision and Senate passage of the gun bill as “additional victories that will both make our country freer and safer.”
The Senate vote on final passage was 65-33. The group of House Democrats watching the vote from the rear of the House included Rep. Lucy McBath, D-GA, whose 17-year-old son was shot dead in 2012 by a man who complained that his music was too loud.
In a key roll call a few hours ago, Senators voted 65-34 to end the filibuster of conservative GOP senators. This is five more than the required threshold of 60 votes. The House of Representatives was scheduled to vote on Friday, and approval seemed imminent.
In both cases, 15 Republicans in the Senate joined all 50 Democrats, including two of their independent allies, in supporting the bill.
However, the 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 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.
Cruz said the law would “disarm law-abiding citizens rather than take serious action to protect our children.”
John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, applauded the senators who supported the measure for “coming together and putting the safety of the American people ahead of the gun lobby’s priorities.”
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.”
Both houses – currently narrowly controlled by Democrats – could very well be controlled by the Republican Party after the November midterm elections.
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.
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.”
This ban 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 allocated to psychiatric clinics and school mental health programs, and money is being allocated for school safety initiatives, but not for staff to use “dangerous weapons.”