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Senate advances newly released bipartisan gun safety bill in key vote

Jun 21, 2022, 8:13 PM | Updated: Jun 25, 2022, 8:52 pm
FILE: A customer purchases a gun at Freddie Bear Sports on April 8, 2021, in Tinley Park, Illinois....
FILE: A customer purchases a gun at Freddie Bear Sports on April 8, 2021, in Tinley Park, Illinois. President Joe Biden today announced gun control measures which included stricter controls on the purchase of homemade firearms, commonly referred to as Ghost Guns and he made a push for national Red Flag legislation and other measures. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

(CNN) — The Senate on Tuesday cast a procedural vote to advance newly finalized bipartisan gun safety legislation, a major step moving the bill forward as lawmakers push to enact the measure in a highly polarized political climate.

The bill still has a number of hurdles to clear. In the Senate, it will face two more key votes — first to break a filibuster and then on final passage. Those could happen later this week, but timing is still uncertain.

The vote to break a filibuster will be a critical, high-stakes moment for the legislation since it will require 60 votes to advance, which means at least 10 Republicans will need to join Democrats in support. If senators successfully break a filibuster, then the bill would go on to a final passage vote. The House would then need to take up the bill.

Tuesday’s vote to advance the measure came shortly after a group of senators had released the legislative text.

Release of the bill text came after days of lawmakers haggling over several sticking points, raising questions over whether the effort would fall apart. Lawmakers now have to race the clock before the Senate departs for the July Fourth recess in an attempt to get the bill passed out of the chamber.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer praised the bipartisan negotiators Tuesday evening and said the bill represents “progress and will save lives.”

“While it’s not everything we want, this legislation is urgently needed,” the New York Democrat added in remarks on the Senate floor.

On the timeline for the legislation, Schumer said, “We will move to final passage as soon as possible. I expect the bill to pass the Senate by the week’s end.”

The bill — titled the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act — was released by Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Republican Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.

The Senate’s compromise legislation on gun safety includes millions of dollars in investments in mental health, school safety, crisis intervention programs and incentives for states to include juvenile records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check system.

The bill makes significant changes to the process when someone ages 18 to 21 goes to buy a firearm. It also closes the so-called boyfriend loophole, a major victory for Democrats, who had fought for a decade for that.

It comes after the release earlier this month of an agreement in principle for a deal on bipartisan gun legislation, which notably had the backing of 10 Republican senators.

It is not yet clear how widespread GOP support will be for the measure now that legislative text is finalized, but in a key indicator of support from GOP leadership, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday evening that he supports the bill.

“I support the bill text that Sen. Cornyn and our colleagues have produced,” the Kentucky Republican said in a statement.

 

What’s in the bill

 

Here is a breakdown of what is in the legislation:

 

  • $750 million to help states implement and run crisis intervention programs. The money can be used to implement and manage red flag programs and for other crisis intervention programs like mental health courts, drug courts and veteran courts. Whether this money could be used for things other than red flag laws had been a primary sticking point. Republicans were able to secure money for states that don’t have red flag laws but do have other crisis intervention programs.
  • Closure of the so-called boyfriend loophole. This legislation closes a years-old loophole in domestic violence law that barred individuals who were convicted of domestic violence crimes against a married partners, or partners with whom they shared children or partners with whom they cohabitated from having guns. Old statutes didn’t include intimate partners who may not live together, be married or share children. Now, the law will bar anyone who is convicted of a domestic violence crime against someone they have a “continuing serious relationship of a romantic or intimate nature” with from having a gun. The law isn’t retroactive. It will, however, allow those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes to restore their gun rights after five years if they haven’t committed other crimes. That’s a key concession to Republicans.
  • Requires more gun sellers to register as Federally Licensed Firearm Dealers. The bill goes after individuals who sell guns as primary sources of income but have previously evaded registering as Federally Licensed Firearm Dealers. This is significant because federally licensed dealers are required to administer background checks before they sell a gun to someone.
  • More thorough reviews of people age 18-21 who want to buy guns. The bill both encourages states to include juvenile records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check system with grants as well as implements a new protocol for checking those records. It gives NICS three days to review an individual’s record. If something potentially disqualifying comes up, NICS gets an additional seven days. If the review is not completed by then, the gun transfer goes through.
  • Creates new federal statutes against gun trafficking and straw trafficking. Makes it easier to go after those who are buying guns for individuals who are not allowed to purchase weapons on their own.
  • Increases funding for mental health programs and school security. This money is directed to a series of programs, many of which already exist but would be funded more robustly under this law.

 

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Tuesday.

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Senate advances newly released bipartisan gun safety bill in key vote