Senate negotiators unveiled an 80-page bill Tuesday evening responding to the mass shootings at the Tops supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., and the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, capping weeks of intense negotiations.
Sen. Chris Murphy (Conn.), the lead Democratic negotiator, is hailing the bill as the biggest breakthrough on the issue of gun violence in 30 years and predicted Tuesday it would save lives.
Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the head Republican in the talks, says the legislation will take guns out of the hands of people who are dangerous or break the law but won’t affect the gun rights of law-abiding citizens.
Here’s what’s inside the package:
Enhanced background checks for people 18 to 21
The legislation would enhance background check requirements for buyers younger than 21 who have juvenile criminal records.
It would keep in place current law requiring the completion of a background check investigation for people between the ages of 18 and 21 within three days but would also require the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to check state records to identify individuals with juvenile records that would disqualify them from purchasing firearms.
But the enhanced background check requirements for buyers between 18 and 21 years old would expire on Sept. 30, 2032, requiring a future Congress to pass new legislation to extend it.
Both the Uvalde and Buffalo shooters were teenagers.
Money for red flag laws and other intervention programs
The bill would expand the Byrne JAG law enforcement grant program to allow states to use federal funding to implement crisis intervention court programs to reduce gun violence. States would have the flexibility to use the money to administer red flag laws to take guns away from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others.
The money could also be used for mental health courts, drug courts, veterans courts and assisted outpatient treatment courts.
It would set up due process protections for intervention programs.
Cornyn explained on the floor Tuesday that if a state red flag law doesn’t include due process protections, it will not be eligible for grants.
Closing the ‘boyfriend loophole‘
The legislation would suspend a person’s right to buy or possess a firearm for a period of at least five years if he or she is convicted of a misdemeanor crime of violence against a person with whom they have or have had a romantic relationship.
A current or former romantic partner would automatically regain the right to buy or own a firearm after a period of five years has elapsed from the end of their criminal sentence. Romantic or intimate partners who are convicted of a violent crime during that five-year waiting period would not automatically regain the right to buy or own a gun.
Under current law, individuals who are convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence against a spouse, a person with a child in common or a cohabiting partner lose their rights to purchase or possess firearms, but advocates have long lamented the so-called “boyfriend loophole” when none of those conditions apply
Children and family mental health services
The bill grows the community mental health services pilot program, expanding Medicaid funding for certified community behavioral health clinics, allowing up to 10 new states to opt into the program every 10 years.
It requires the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to provide guidance to states on how to increase access to health care and mental health services through telehealth programs to Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program enrollees.
It also seeks to improve access to mental health service in schools by requiring the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to provide states with resources to expand health programs at schools.
Clarifying the definition of gun dealers
The bill clarifies that people who regularly buy and sell firearms to earn profits must be registered as Federal Firearm Licensee, which would require them to run background checks for transactions.
The language is intended to crack down on people who buy and sell large numbers of guns but intentionally avoid dealer licensing requirements.
Cracking down on straw purchasers and illegal trafficking of firearms
The bill would establish a new and specific criminal offense for straw purchasers and gun traffickers and establish tougher penalties, up to 15 years in prison, for people who break the law.
The language is intended to make it easier for prosecutors to charge gun runners. Under current law, prosecutors often have to rely on charging people who illegally traffic firearms with paperwork violations.
It would give law enforcement tools to charge people who act as middlemen for criminals and drug traffickers.
It would direct the U.S. Sentencing Commission to adopt tougher guidelines for straw purchasers and gun traffickers.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) both praised the bill Tuesday evening.
“This bipartisan gun-safety legislation is progress and will save lives. While it is not everything we want, this legislation is urgently needed,” Schumer said in a statement, promising to bring the bill to the floor immediately.
McConnell announced he would vote for the bill, likely giving it at least 61 votes and enough to overcome a filibuster.
“For years, the far left falsely claimed that Congress could only address the terrible issue of mass murders by trampling on law-abiding Americans’ constitutional rights. This bill proves that false. 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,” he said in a statement.