The Senate will race to approve the newly released, bipartisan Safer Communities Act before it leaves for Independence Day vacation at the end of the week. Approving the biggest gun reform bill in 30 years will likely require a weekend congressional session so it can pass both houses and head to the president’s desk for a signature.
The gun reform legislation expands background checks for 18- to 20-year-olds and creates new federal offenses for gun traffickers and people who buy guns for people who can’t buy one legally themselves. The legislation also includes a measure aimed at closing what’s called the “boyfriend loophole” by barring people from possessing a gun for five years if they have been convicted of domestic violence against someone with whom they had a dating relationship.
The bill also provides $4.5 billion to the Department of Justice and Health and Human Services, including $3 billion for school and community mental health services. Schools will also be eligible for $300 million in grant money for safety training, technology and security infrastructure.
“I believe that this week we will pass legislation that will become the most significant piece of anti-gun violence legislation Congress will have passed in 30 years. This is a breakthrough. And more importantly, it’s a bipartisan breakthrough,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said.
Sens. Murphy and John Cornyn, R-Texas, led the negotiations to get a bill written that could receive at least 60 votes in the Senate so it could overcome a filibuster. An initial vote in that chamber Tuesday night ended with 64 senators voting in favor.
“Texans are disgusted and outraged by what happened at Robb Elementary, and they want Congress to take appropriate action to prevent the loss of more innocent lives,” Sen. Cornyn said. “I’m happy to report as a result of the hard work of a number of senators in this chamber, that we’ve made some serious progress.”
Many Democrats and organizations in favor of gun reform wanted to go much further than this bill, including adding a ban on assault weapons. However, so far the legislation has been described as an important bipartisan step in the right direction that can help save lives.
“It takes courage to act, and I’m proud to see Democrats and Republicans come together to introduce this bill,” former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., said in a statement. “There is more important work to be done, but this legislation takes important steps needed to protect communities and save lives from gun violence.”
Giffords was shot in the head during a constituent event in 2011 and has never fully recovered. She has dedicated her life to gun safety reforms ever since.
The National Rifle Association said it will oppose this legislation.
“This legislation can be abused to restrict lawful gun purchases, infringe upon the rights of law-abiding Americans, and use federal dollars to fund gun control measures being adopted by state and local politicians,” the gun rights organization said in a statement. “It falls short at every level. 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.”