WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate on Thursday easily approved a bipartisan gun violence bill that seemed unthinkable a month ago, setting up final approval for what will be Congress’s most ambitious response in decades. to the series of brutal mass shootings in the country.
After years of GOP procedural delays that derailed Democratic efforts to limit guns, Democrats and 15 Republicans decided congressional inaction was untenable after last month’s rampages in New York and Texas. It took weeks of talks behind closed doors, but negotiators from both sides emerged with a compromise that embodied 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 on younger gun buyers, keep guns out of more perpetrators of domestic violence, and help states put in place laws on the red flags that make it easier for 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 far short of tougher gun restrictions that Democrats have called for and Republicans have thwarted for years, including bans on assault-style weapons and ammo clips. of high capacity used in the 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 the ways gun violence affects our nation,’ 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, R-Ky., In a nod to the Second Amendment right to bear arms that motivates many conservative voters, said “the American people want their constitutional rights are protected and that her children are safe at school”. He said “they want both of those things, and that’s 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 action, the right-wing Supreme Court issued a ruling expanding Americans’ right to bear arms in public by striking down a New York law requiring people to prove they need to carry a gun. weapon before getting a license to do so.
McConnell hailed the judges’ decision and the Senate’s passage of the gun bill as “complementary victories that will make our country freer and safer at the same time.”
The Senate vote on the final passage was 65-33. A group of House Democrats who watched the vote from the back of the chamber included Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Ga., whose 17-year-old son was shot dead in 2012 by a man complaining his music was too strong.
At the key roll call 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 both votes, 15 Senate Republicans joined 50 Democrats, including their two allied independents, in supporting the legislation.
Still, the votes highlighted the risks Republicans face in challenging the party’s pro-gun voters and gun groups like the National Rifle Association. The senses. Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Indiana’s Todd Young were the only two of 15 to be reelected 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 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 Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah.
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 Senate’s 50 GOP senators backed the measure, and a strong Republican opposition is certain in the House. Top 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 curtail the rights of the 2nd Amendment Law-Abiding Citizens”.
Both chambers — now tightly controlled by Democrats — may well be led by the GOP after November’s midterm elections.
In a statement, President Joe Biden said 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.
LOOK: Senators announce bipartisan agreement on gun safety legislation in wake of mass shootings
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 Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, John Cornyn, R-Texas and Thom Tillis, RN.C. 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 following shootings by mass in his state 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 than 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 increased, billions of dollars are being allocated to behavioral health clinics and mental health programs in schools and there is money for safe schools initiatives, but not for staff to use a “dangerous weapon”.