WASHINGTON (AP) — The House has sent President Joe Biden the most sweeping gun violence bill yet. Congress passed decades ago on Friday a measured compromise that illustrates both progress on the long unresolved issue and the deep partisan divide that remains.
The Democratic-led chamber approved election-year legislation on a 234-193 majority partisan vote, capping a surge of action sparked by voter revulsion over last month’s mass shootings in New York and Texas . The night before, the Senate approved it by a bipartisan margin of 65 to 33, with 15 Republicans joining all Democrats in backing a package that senators from both parties had crafted.
The bill would gradually tighten requirements for young people to buy guns, deny guns to more domestic abusers and help local authorities temporarily take guns from those deemed dangerous. Most of its $13 billion cost would go to bolstering mental health programs and schools, which have been targeted in Newtown, Connecticut, Parkland, Florida and many other infamous massacres.
And while it omits the much tougher restrictions Democrats have long championed, it is the most impactful gun violence measure Congress has approved since enacting an assault weapons ban now. expired nearly 30 years ago.
The legislation was a direct result of the murder of 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, exactly one month ago, and the murder of 10 black shoppers days earlier in Buffalo, New York. Lawmakers returned from their districts after those shootings saying voters were demanding action from Congress, a vehemence that many felt could not be ignored.
“No amount of legislation can make their families or their communities whole,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, DN.Y., said of those victims. “But we can act to prevent others from facing the same trauma.”
For the conservatives who dominate the Republicans in the House, it all came down to the Constitution’s Second Amendment right for people to have guns, a protection that is essential for many voters who own guns.
“Today they’re coming after our Second Amendment freedoms, and who knows what tomorrow will be,” said Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the court panel.
It’s impossible to ignore the juxtaposition of the Guns of the Week votes with a pair of jarring Supreme Court rulings on two of the nation’s most incendiary culture war issues. Judges on Thursday struck down a New York law that restricted people’s ability to carry concealed weaponsand on Friday it overturned Roe v. Wade, eliminating the abortion protection that this case had provided for half a century.
Fifteen Senate Republicans backed the compromise, but that still meant less than a third of GOP senators supported the measure. And with Republicans in the House staunchly opposed, the fate of future congressional action on guns looks doubtful, even if the GOP is expected to gain control of the House and possibly the Senate in the November election.
The bill lacked favorite Democratic proposals, such as banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines used in the Buffalo and Uvalde massacres. But he still let both parties declare victory by showing voters that they know how to compromise and make government work.
Still, the Senate votes highlighted how wary most Republicans are of 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. Cruz said the legislation would “disarm law-abiding citizens rather than take serious action to protect our children.”
The talks that produced the bill 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 2012while Cornyn has been embroiled in gun talks following mass shootings in his state and is close to McConnell.
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.
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”.