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  • Writer's pictureSmall Town American Media

Congress Passes Major Gun Safety Legislation in the Wake of Mass Shootings

  • The House passed bipartisan gun control legislation in late June, voting 234-193 on the bill. This comes after the Senate passed the bill, voting 65-33 on the legislation. It is the first major gun safety legislation to make it through Congress in almost three decades.

  • The bill, called the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, was pushed following recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, in May. The legislation was prompted by discussions among ten Republicans and ten Democrats.

Senators Chris Murphy and John Cornyn speaking with each other
Senators Chris Murphy and John Cornyn, Leaders in Drafting Gun Legislation

On May 24, Salvador Ramos, 18, attacked Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, a small and predominantly Latino community west of San Antonio.

Wielding an AR-15 style rifle, Ramos killed 19 children and 2 teachers in what was the deadliest school shooting since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012.

Recent shootings, such as the one in Uvalde, have produced nationwide discussions about gun control.

While Congress has failed to enact gun legislation and restrictions in the wake of similar attacks in the past, the House of Representatives voted on June 24 to pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, just before Congress begins a two-week recess for the July Fourth holiday. Despite some opposition from GOP leaders in the House, the legislation passed the Democratic-majority chamber with 14 Republican representatives voting in favor of the act after 15 Republican senators voted in favor of the bill the previous day.

Gun Control Legislation Receives Bipartisan Support in Congress

A bipartisan group of senators, including Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., took the lead in drafting the legislation. "Our legislation will save lives and will not infringe on any law-abiding American's Second Amendment rights," the senators said in a joint statement. "We look forward to earning broad, bipartisan support and passing our commonsense legislation into law."

Rep. Tony Gonzales, a Republican representing the district that Uvalde, Texas, is in, announced his support for the act.

"Every day, gun violence steals lives and scars communities — and this crisis demands urgent action," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. "While we must do more, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act is a step forward that will help protect our children and save lives."

Both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) expressed their support and voted for the bill.

"Our colleagues have put together a commonsense package of popular steps that will help make these horrifying incidents less likely while fully upholding the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens," McConnell said in support of the legislation.

Measures Introduced in Newly Passed Law

The newly passed act will introduce and expand a number of measures in order to prevent mass shootings.

The legislation will expand background checks for prospective gun buyers between the ages of 18 and 21 and will incentivize states to provide access to juvenile records before gun purchases can be completed.

It will also expand an existing law preventing people convicted of domestic abuse from owning a gun. The definition of who qualifies for the ban will expand to include dating partners, as the existing law currently only includes spouses and former spouses. The legislation defines a “dating relationship” as “a relationship between individuals who have or have recently had a continuing serious relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.”

A new section of the ban introduced in the bill will also allow for people who are restricted from gun access to have their rights to own a gun restored if they have a clean record for five years.

The legislation also will push for states to create red flag laws, which allow law enforcement and other entities to request a court to take away guns from people deemed to be threats. $750 million in grants would be set aside to incentivize states to enact red flag laws.

The law also includes new penalties for those who conduct straw purchases, the process of illegally buying a gun from another person. People who do straw purchases can now be sentenced up to 15 years, and up to 25 years if they use the illegally bought gun in a felony, terrorism, or trafficking.

The legislation also will include over $2.5 billion in funding for school safety and training, telehealth programs to expand access to mental health help, and community-based mental health programs.

While this legislation is not as comprehensive as plans that President Biden and many Democrats have called for, which include bans on military-style semi automatic rifles and universal background checks, many Democrats still are celebrating this act as a crucial step towards further action on guns.

"Tonight, after 28 years of inaction, bipartisan members of Congress came together to heed the call of families across the country and passed legislation to address the scourge of gun violence in our communities. Families in Uvalde and Buffalo - and too many tragic shootings before - have demanded action. And tonight, we acted," President Biden said in a statement expressing his support for the act.


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