What’s in the Bipartisan Senate Gun Bill
OOn Tuesday, bipartisan senators published legislative text to narrowly address gun safety issues. It was the largest step toward tightening federal gun laws for nearly three decades.
The bill, if passed would mandate enhanced background checks for purchasers under 21 years old and allocate $15 billion to federal funds for school security and mental health programs. However, the compromise reached by bipartisans is not enough to provide the much-needed gun-control measures that President Joe Biden (and other Democrats) have called for following recent mass shootings.
With 10 Republican Senators already announcing support for the original framework—enough to break a filibuster—the legislation is expected to pass the Senate by the end of the week and then head for a vote on the House floor before the July 4 recess. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, signaled last week that the Democratic-controlled House would enact whatever bill the Senate might pass.
“This is a breakthrough,” Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, the lead Democratic negotiator, said Tuesday. “This bill is going to save lives.”
It’s unclear how many Republican lawmakers will ultimately be on board, though the bill got a boost from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky. “Our colleagues have put together a commonsense package of popular steps that will help make these horrifying incidents less likely while fully upholding the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens,” he said in a statement Tuesday evening.
Nearly a month ago, a gunman shot and killed 19 schoolchildren in Uvalde (Texas), in the deadliest school shooting incident in American history. The massacre took place just 10 days following a mass shooting that was racially motivated at a Buffalo supermarket in New York. The Gun Violence Archive reports that there were 278 mass shootings by 2022. This is not counting the shooter.
Gun reform remains one of America’s most controversial issues. It was 1994 when the federal government last passed laws to curb the proliferation of guns. The Lion KingIn theaters.
Here’s a look at the major elements of the new bipartisan gun bill.
State incentives for ‘red-flag’ laws
The bill provides $750 million in new federal funding over five years to help states implement crisis intervention programs or so-called “red-flag” laws, which allow authorities to temporarily confiscate guns from people deemed to represent a threat to themselves or others. The laws are currently in effect in 19 states as well Washington, D.C.
This was the central issue of final negotiations. Republicans expressed concerns that red-flag legislation violated due process rights for people accused of being threats. According to the legislative text the bill addresses those concerns by giving the accused the right, as per the legislation, to a hearing in person, to access opposing evidence and to counsel free of charge.
“Under this bill, every state will be able to use significant new federal dollars to be able to expand their programs to try to stop dangerous people, people contemplating mass murder or suicide, from being able to have access to the weapons that allow them to perpetrate that crime,” Murphy said on the chamber floor.
Protecting victims of domestic violence
The bill would close what’s known as the “boyfriend loophole,” a gap in current federal law that bars those convicted of domestic violence from purchasing a firearm only if the victim was either a spouse or partner with whom they lived or had a child. Under the new provision, for the first time, anyone convicted of abusing a current or former dating partner will also be added to the FBI’s National Instant Background Check System and unable to purchase firearms.
The bill defines a dating relationship as a “relationship between individuals who have or have recently had a continuing serious relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.” It would be determined based on the length and nature of the relationship, as well as the frequency and type of interaction between the individuals involved, according to the legislative text.
After lengthy discussions on how to close this loophole, negotiators decided to let dating partners who were convicted of misdemeanors to buy guns after five years, provided they are first offenders and have not been convicted of any violent offense or misdemeanor.
Clarification of licensing requirements and illegal ‘straw’ purchases
This legislation would make gun purchases more secure by limiting the scope of what is a federally registered firearms dealer. It also aims to clamp down on illegal evasion of licensing requirements. It clarifies that an individual who repeatedly buys and sells firearms “to predominantly earn a profit” must register as a Federal Firearm Licensee. This law requires that all dealers complete background checks and keep the appropriate records.
Murphy believes that Murphy’s provision would allow for thousands more gun sales through background checks.
In addition, the legislation would toughen the criminal penalties for third party gun sales, known as “straw” purchases. According to the bill, anyone convicted of buying or selling could face a maximum 15-year sentence.
The 21-year-old enhanced review process
This bill will increase background checks for gun purchasers under 21. If passed, the law would give authorities up to 10 working days for review of the records, including the records from local and state databases, regarding potential gun purchasers.
This provision was thoroughly reviewed by the legislators. State records can be incomplete or differ from one state to another. The provision provides grants that would allow states to keep criminal or mental health records to aid in this process.
Current law allows anyone over 18 to buy shotguns or rifles. This includes the semi-automatic military rifles that were used in many recent mass shootings.
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“I know this bill is not going to please everyone,” Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the lead Republican negotiator, said on the chamber floor after referencing the proposed background checks. “Some think it goes too far, others think it doesn’t go far enough… But the nature of compromise and the nature of actually wanting to get a result requires that everybody try to find common ground where we can.”
Invest in schools security and mental healthcare services
The senators agreed to spend $15 billion in the next five-years on improving school security and expanding mental health resources. The bill would launch more than a dozen new initiatives, including one that would create a broader network of “community behavioral health centers” and another that would increase access to telehealth services for those in a mental health crisis.
According to the bill summary: Federal spending will be offset by a one year delay in a Medicare drug rebate provision. The estimated federal savings are approximately $21 billion.
Many billions of dollars will be spent on schools and investments to improve safety. This legislation adds five areas to spending: early intervention, school-based psychological health, wrap-around and improvement of school-wide learning conditions, and school security. 300 million dollars are available for school security improvements. This money is intended to improve safety in schools, and provide training and support to students and school staff.
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