“Many have come to doubt that we are capable of running our institutions, including the world’s largest legislative body,” Cornyn said. “And we’ve proven that we can, when inspired enough…come together and find common ground that will help keep our communities safe, protect our children and save lives.”
The gun safety package came to fruition after weeks of talks between Murphy, Cornyn, Sinema and Tillis. As final package defied political odds, bipartisan talks received first endorsements from majority leader chuck schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. And the path to passage looked increasingly likely after 10 Republicans backed the quartet’s initial framework.
Schumer and Murphy made the decision early on not to hold a political vote on guns, despite initial pressure from progressives to do so, and instead opted to try to reach a deal with the GOP.
“I had spoken to a few Republicans and there seemed to be a different mood, they understood how serious it was and how important it was to do something about it,” Schumer said in an interview. “This is the first time in 28 years that the tight grip that [National Rifle Association] had on Congress was broken.
While the NRA opposed the bill, both McConnell and Cornyn spoke to the group about the legislation — discussions which McConnell called “fruitful.” Although the two leading Republicans’ yes votes on Thursday could cause them problems with conservative voters, McConnell said he sees the effort as both good policy and good policy for a party that has lost ground with some constituencies.
“We have lost ground in suburban areas. We pretty much own rural America and small towns. And I think that’s a sensible solution to the problem we’re facing, which is school safety and mental health,” McConnell said Thursday night. “I hope it will be viewed favorably by voters in the suburbs that we need to win back in order to hopefully be in the majority next year.”
In a statement shortly after the vote, President Joe Biden welcomed the passage of the legislation, saying it “will help protect Americans.” He urged the House to vote “quickly” on the bill and send it to his desk.
It could be another generation before Congress acts again on gun safety. And while the legislation is more modest than Democrats’ longstanding push for expanded background checks or an assault weapons ban, it does include some of both parties’ gun safety priorities.
The measure provides grants to states to implement so-called red flag laws, which allow for the temporary confiscation of firearms from people deemed to be threats to themselves or others, as well as other enforcement programs. crisis intervention.
In addition, it closes the so-called “boyfriend loophole” by prohibiting those convicted of domestic violence offenses against dating partners or former dating partners from purchasing a firearm for at least five years. . Under this provision, the right to a firearm would be reinstated after this period if the person is on their first offense and has not committed any acts of violence during this period.
The bill also requires the FBI’s nationwide instant criminal background check system to contact state authorities, local law enforcement, and a state’s Juvenile Justice Information System to see whether a person under the age of 21 has a “disqualifying” juvenile record for the purchase of a firearm, including mental health issues. This provision would expire after 10 years.
In addition, the legislation would make purchasing a firearm on behalf of someone prohibited from doing so a federal crime and clarify registration requirements for commercial firearms dealers who exist “primarily” for profit.
Finally, the bill includes new spending for school safety and mental health treatment. The mental health component of the program, led by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), provides new funds for states to invest in community behavioral health clinics, as well as school-based mental health programs. This part is estimated at around $8.5 billion, more than half of the package’s proposed price.
Ahead of the final vote, senators were trying to negotiate with conservative critics – who wanted a chance to speak out against the prosecution bill and have called for further amendments. But the amendment effort appeared to founder on competing demands.
Underscoring the political volatility of the issue, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday to strike down a New York state law that limited the ability to obtain concealed carry permits.