The Senate on June 23 passed a bipartisan package of gun control measures after breaking a filibuster in the chamber earlier in the day.
The legislation comes on the heels of mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, which killed 10 people, and Uvalde, Texas, which killed 21 people, 19 of whom were children. Both shooters were 18 years old.
Both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) support the bill.
Earlier this week, McConnell called the measure a “commonsense package" and rejected concerns of Republican members who oppose the legislation on gun rights grounds. He also said the measure will “protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens."
Schumer hailed the move while suggesting more needs to be done.
"We are passing the first significant gun safety bill in nearly 30 years," Schumer on Thursday said on the Senate floor.
Measure Likely to Pass HouseIn the House, the bill seems set to pass despite some GOP pushback. Top House Republicans, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), have signaled they would vote no on the measure, with Scalise saying in a whip notice that the bill is "an effort to slowly chip away at law-abiding citizens’ 2nd Amendment rights."
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who retains almost complete control over what comes to the floor, has said she expects the House to vote on the measure by the end of this week. Because simple majority rules in the Democrat-controlled chamber, the bill is likely to quickly pass the lower chamber and advance to President Joe Biden’s desk.
"This is an important piece of legislation. We're very excited about it. It will save lives," Pelosi said on June 22. "But we want to get it done.”
Biden praised the passage of the bill.
CriticismsThe National Rifle Association opposed the measure, having said earlier this week that it "does little to truly address violent crime while opening the door to unnecessary burdens on the exercise of Second Amendment freedom by law-abiding gun owners."
Gun Owners of America, another gun lobby, said on Twitter that it "will challenge these unconstitutional laws in court to defend the rights of all Americans."
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Miss.) had criticized the quick procedural vote on the bill, which came just an hour after the full text of the legislation was released on June 21.
"This bill wasn’t just mental health and school safety; it also created new gun limits in ways that will not solve the problem and does not protect the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens," he said. "It incentivizes states to adopt red flag laws, which often treat individuals as guilty until proven innocent.
"The bill blocks unspent COVID money from going to arm or train security on school campuses or allowing schools to use the billions of dollars they received in the past year for school safety. Additionally, the bill, which is supposedly meant to protect children, gives an option to expand access to abortion services and abortion counseling on school campuses. Why is there an option for states to fund abortion in school health centers in a juvenile mental health and school safety bill?"
ProvisionsAmong several key provisions, the bill would provide about $15 billion over the next five years toward expanding access to mental health programs and enhancing school security in an effort to prevent future mass shootings.
The legislation would also expand federal background checks for people between 18 to 21 who seek to buy a gun by requiring additional checks of juvenile records. This requirement would expire after 10 years, on Sept. 30, 2032, which means lawmakers would have to pass a new bill to extend it.
It would also close the so-called “boyfriend loophole." Under the measure, convicted domestic abusers would be barred from buying guns if their victim is their romantic partner or a recent former romantic partner. The person’s right to buy a gun would be restored after five years if they do not commit any violence or felonies. Currently, convicted domestic abusers are banned from having a gun if they are married to, live with, or had children with their victims.
The bill will also help provide $750 million in funding to a grant to help enforce red flag laws in the 19 states and the District of Columbia that have them, making it easier to temporarily confiscate guns from people adjudged as a danger to themselves and others over concerns about their mental health.
While red flag laws vary from state to state, often the accused aren’t given notice of an accusation or any chance to defend themselves against the charges until after their weapons have been confiscated.
Separately, in an effort to prevent people from evading dealer licensing requirements, the bill adjusts language in the current law so that people who regularly buy and sell guns “to predominantly earn a profit” are required to register as a federal firearm licensee. With this designation, these gun sellers would be required to run background checks for transactions.
The gun control package would also strengthen penalties for gun trafficking and straw purchasing, including fines and up to 15 years in prison for violators.