(Washington DC) – The Senate pushed a bipartisan gun violence bill to the brink of passage on Thursday as it voted to stop a Republican filibuster against the measure, paving the way for Congress’ most far-reaching response in decades to the race. country by brutal attacks. mass shootings.
After years of GOP procedural delays that hampered Democratic efforts to curb firearms, Democrats and some Republicans decided that Congressional inaction was unsustainable following last month’s riots in New York and Texas. It was weeks of closed-door talks, but a group of senators from both parties emerged with an 80-page compromise embodying an incremental but impactful move.
The measure would tighten background checks for younger gun buyers, keep firearms from more domestic violence offenders, and help states implement red flag laws that make it easier for authorities to take guns from people deemed dangerous. It would also fund local school safety, mental health, and violence prevention programs.
Thursday’s vote that ended the blockade of conservative GOP senators was 65 to 34, five more than the required 60-vote threshold. Final approval of the $13 billion measure was expected by the end of the week, with a House vote to follow. The timing was uncertain, but Congress was scheduled to leave the city over the weekend for a two-week break.
Fifteen Senate Republicans joined all 50 Democrats, including their two independent allies, in voting to advance the legislation.
The day was bittersweet for advocates of reducing gun violence. Underscoring the enduring potency of conservative influence, the right-wing Supreme Court issued a ruling expanding Americans’ right to bear arms in public. Judges struck down a New York law that required people to prove the need to carry a gun before obtaining a license to do so.
The Senate vote highlighted the risks Republicans face in challenging the party’s pro-gun voters and the National Rifle Association. The Sens. Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Indiana’s Todd Young were the only two of 15 candidates for re-election this fall. Of the remainder, four are retiring and eight do not face voters until 2026.
Surprisingly, GOP senators who voted “no” included potential 2024 presidential candidates like Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri and Tim Scott of South Carolina. Some of the more conservative members of the party also voted “no,” including Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah.
The election year package fell far short of the tougher gun restrictions Democrats have been pursuing for years, including bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines used in the Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas killings. However, the agreement allows the leaders of both parties to declare victory and demonstrate to voters that they know how to compromise and make the government work, while leaving room for each side to appeal to its main supporters.
“This is not a cure-all 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. It is significant, it will save lives.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in a nod to the Second Amendment right to bear arms that drives many conservative voters, said, “The American people want their constitutional rights protected and their children safe.” in school”. He said that “they want both at the same time, and that’s exactly what the Senate bill will have accomplished.”
While the Senate move was a clear step forward, prospects for continued Congressional movement on gun restrictions are dim.
Only about a third of the Senate’s 50 Republican senators supported the measure, and solid Republican opposition is certain in the House. Leading House Republicans called for a “no” vote in an email from the GOP’s second leader, Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who called the bill “an effort to slowly diminish the 2nd Amendment rights of abiding citizens.” of law”.
Both chambers – now controlled by Democrats – may well be run by the GOP after November’s midterm elections.
In a statement, President Joe Biden said Uvalde residents told him when he visited that Washington had to act.
“Our children in schools and our communities will be safer because of this legislation. I ask Congress to finish the job and bring this bill to my desk,” Biden said.
The Senate action came a month after a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde. Just 10 days before that, a white man accused of being motivated by racism killed 10 black grocery shoppers in Buffalo. Both shooters were 18 years old, a youthful profile shared by many mass shooters.
The talks were led by Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., John Cornyn, R-Texas and Thom Tillis, RN.C. Murphy represented Newtown, Connecticut, when an assailant killed 20 students and six employees at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, while Cornyn has been involved in previous gun negotiations following mass shootings in his state and is close to McConnell.
The bill would make local juvenile records of people ages 18 to 20 available during required federal background checks when they try to buy guns. These exams, currently limited to three days, would last a maximum of 10 days to give federal and local authorities time to search the records.
People convicted of domestic abuse who are current or former romantic partners of the victim would be banned from acquiring firearms, closing the so-called “boyfriend gap.”
Currently, this ban only applies to people who are married, living with, or have had children with the victim. The compromise bill would extend this to those deemed to have “an ongoing serious relationship”.
There would be money to help states enforce red flag laws and for other states without them this for violence prevention programs. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have these laws, and Cornyn – whose state does not – demanded that all states be included during the negotiations.
The measure expands the use of background checks by rewriting the definition of federally licensed arms dealers required to perform them. Penalties for gun trafficking are tightened, billions of dollars are provided for behavioral health clinics and school mental health programs, and money is made for school safety initiatives, though not for staff to use a “dangerous weapon.”
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