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Senate vote brings gun bill closer to reality
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The Senate advanced legislation aimed at preventing acts of mass gun violence beyond a key procedural hurdle on Thursday, voting to close debate and moving toward a final vote on a package combining modest new restrictions on guns with $15 billion in funding for mental health and school safety.

The 65-34 vote represented an unlikely breakthrough on the emotional and polarizing issue of US gun laws, which have remained virtually unchanged for more than 25 years, even as the nation has been repeatedly marred by shootings. mass whose names have become etched in history – from Columbine and Virginia Tech to Sandy Hook and Parkland.

But the May 24 killing of 19 students and two teachers inside an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, has sparked new action, forcing a small group of senators to negotiate a tight, bipartisan package. aimed at keeping weapons away from dangerous potential killers while growing stronger. nation’s mental health care capacity with billions of dollars in new funding.

The resulting bipartisan Safer Communities Act garnered support from all 50 Democratic caucus members and 15 Republicans Thursday, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who opposed previous attempts to toughen gun laws after mass shootings.

Senate votes to advance bipartisan gun deal, breaking 30-year deadlock

“That’s the sweet spot … making America safer, especially for kids in school, without making our country a little less free,” McConnell said Thursday. “It’s a bunch of common sense. Its layouts are very, very popular. It contains zero, zero new restrictions, zero new waiting periods, zero warrants and zero bans of any kind for law-abiding gun owners.

McConnell’s support came despite opposition from prominent gun rights groups, including the National Rifle Association, which said this week that the bill “does little to truly combat against violent crimes while opening the door to unnecessary charges on the exercise of Second Amendment freedom by law-abiding gun owners.

But other right-wing players threw their support behind the bill, which was mainly brokered by the Sens. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), as well as Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Thom Tillis (RN.C.). The Wall Street Journal’s conservative editorial board approved the legislation on Thursday, as did the National Sheriffs’ Association, which has close ties to GOP leaders.

Democrats and gun control advocates, meanwhile, hailed the bill as a breakthrough — in terms of policy if not policy, breaking decades of congressional deadlock over gun laws. fire.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) said Thursday that the bill “is not a panacea for all the ways gun violence affects our nation, but it is a step in the right direction that is long overdue”.

“The United States Senate was faced with a choice: We could go to a deadlock…or we could choose to try to forge a bipartisan path to pass a real bill, however difficult that may seem,” he said. he declared. “We chose to try to do something.”

Coalition behind gun bill reveals strong Republican split in Senate

The precise timing of the final vote remained in question on Thursday afternoon. According to Senate rules, a final vote must take place no later than Friday evening, but that deadline could be accelerated if all 100 senators agree.

The 15 Republicans supporting the bill were Sens. Roy Blunt (Mo.), Richard Burr (NC), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Susan Collins (Maine), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Lindsey O. Graham (SC), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio), Mitt Romney (Utah), Patrick J. Toomey (Pa.) and Todd C. Young (Ind.), as well as McConnell, Cornyn and Tillis.

Some conservative senators have tabled amendments to the bill, as an alternative to Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) Who would fund school safety officers and mental health programs while leaving current gun laws intact. They or others could agree to expedite the final passage of the bill in exchange for a vote on their amendments.

“We’re not going to leave until we pass this bill,” Schumer said Thursday, pledging to work to get the vote through as soon as possible.

If the Senate passes his bill, it would make it to the House, where it is expected to pass with the support of nearly all Democrats and a handful of Republicans. “While more is needed, this package must quickly become law to help protect our children,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday.

President Biden, who called for much stronger gun control measures in a speech at the White House this month, signaled that he intended to sign the bill into law.

But Thursday’s Senate vote was the real breakthrough — breaking the de facto filibuster of gun control legislation that had been in place since the mid-1990s, when bipartisan majorities passed the bill. Brady Act establishing the national background check system, a 10-year ban. on assault weapons and restrictions on gun sales to perpetrators of domestic violence.

However, none of the measures included in the current bill go that far. They are best described as modest extensions and tweaks to existing laws — like closing the “boyfriend loophole,” a loophole in a 1996 law aimed at keeping guns away from perpetrators of domestic violence.

Existing law, however, only prohibits the sale of weapons to perpetrators of domestic violence offenses who committed their crimes against a spouse or partner with whom they had lived or had a child. The Senate bill includes for the first time those who have committed crimes against people “current or recent in a former romantic relationship”.

Another key provision creates “enhanced” background checks for gun buyers under 21, who would be subject to a search of underage criminal and mental health records for the first time. Authorities would have up to 10 working days to review those records under the Senate bill, though that provision expires in 10 years — after which juvenile records would have to be routinely included in the federal Instant Child Verification Database. antecedents.

The bill also injects an additional $750 million into an existing Justice Department grant program and enables it for the first time to fund state crisis-response programs, including “red flag” laws. that allow authorities to temporarily keep the firearms of people deemed to pose a danger to themselves or their communities. Other provisions establish new federal firearms trafficking offenses and specify which firearms dealers are required to apply for a federal firearms license and thus conduct background checks on their customers.

Mental health-focused elements of the bill would allow states to create “community behavioral health centers,” scale up school-based intervention programs, and enable broader access to telehealth services for people in mental health crisis, among other programs. The $15 billion price tag is offset by delaying a Trump administration settlement over Medicare drug costs.

The Senate vote came just hours after the Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, expanded the right of Americans to publicly carry firearms under the Constitution – overturning a New York law that required those who were seeking a license to carry a handgun to demonstrate a legitimate reason for doing so.

The court’s opinion, written by Judge Clarence Thomas, argues “that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.” But a concurring opinion written by Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. pointed out that the Constitution continues to authorize a “variety” of gun regulations.

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