Congress Passes Biggest Gun Bill in Three Decades

·2 min read
REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger
REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger

After nearly three decades, dozens of devastating mass shootings, and thousands of deaths from gun violence, Congress overcame a longstanding Republican-led blockade on gun control and finally sent a significant gun reform bill to the president’s desk.

On Friday afternoon, the U.S. House passed the so-called Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. The Senate—where negotiations to craft the bill took place—first passed the legislation on Thursday night.

In both chambers, solid bipartisan majorities approved the bill. In the Senate, 15 GOP senators joined with all 50 Democrats to advance the bill, easily clearing the chamber’s 60-vote threshold for passing bills.

In the House, where the GOP is more conservative, 14 Republican lawmakers voted with all Democrats to pass the bill by a 234 to 193 margin.

The legislation that President Joe Biden will soon sign into law is hardly the comprehensive gun reform package that Democrats have been pushing to enact for decades. But the bill does make key changes to federal gun policy that advocates and experts believe will meaningfully address the nation’s epidemic of gun violence.

Notably, the bill would beef up background checks for prospective firearm buyers between the ages of 18 and 21 years old—a weakness that got more attention after the recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, which were both committed by 18-year-old men.

Beyond that, the legislation finally closes the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” which excluded dating partners from the law that blocks those convicted of domestic violence against a spouse from buying firearms. And the bill contains funding to encourage states to enact rules known as “red flag” laws that temporarily block access to guns for people considered a danger to themselves or others.

In a bid to attract GOP support, the legislation also includes billions of dollars to address what some Republicans have pointed to as the root causes of mass shootings: deficiencies in school security and a national mental health crisis.

The lead Senate Democratic negotiator, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), called the bill “a compromise.”

"It doesn't do everything I want,” he said on Thursday night. “But what we are doing will save thousands of lives without violating anyone's Second Amendment rights."

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