Senate advances bipartisan gun safety bill in key vote

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The bill still has a number of hurdles to clear. In the Senate, he will face two more key votes – first to break up a filibuster, then in the final passage. It could happen later this week, but the timing is still uncertain.

The vote to break up a filibuster will be a critical and high-stakes moment for the legislation since it will take 60 votes to move forward, meaning at least 10 Republicans will need to join Democrats in backing them. If the senators were successful in breaking up a filibuster, the bill would go to the final vote. The House should then seize the bill.

The release of the bill’s text came after days of lawmakers haggling over several sticking points, raising questions about whether the effort would fall apart. Lawmakers must now race against time before the Senate leaves for July 4 recess in order to get the bill through the chamber.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer praised bipartisan negotiators Tuesday night and said the bill represents “progress and will save lives.”

“While it’s not all we want, this legislation is urgently needed,” the New York Democrat added in remarks to the Senate.

Regarding the timing of the legislation, Schumer said, “We will move into final passage as soon as possible. I expect the bill to pass the Senate by the end of the week.”

The bill – titled the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act – was released by Democratic senses Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Republican senses John Cornyn of Texas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.

Senate compromise gun safety legislation includes millions of dollars in investments in mental health, school safety, crisis intervention programs and incentives for states to include records minors in the national instant criminal background check system.

The bill makes significant changes to the process when someone between the ages of 18 and 21 goes to buy a firearm. It also closes the so-called boyfriend loophole, a major victory for Democrats, who have fought for it for a decade.
This follows the release earlier this month of an agreement in principle for a deal on bipartisan gun legislation, which notably had the support of 10 Republican senators.

It’s not yet clear how widespread GOP support for the measure will be now that the legislation is finalized, but in a key indicator of GOP leadership support, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said said Tuesday evening that he supported the bill.

“I support the text of the bill that Senator Cornyn and our colleagues have produced,” the Kentucky Republican said in a statement.

What’s in the bill

Here’s a breakdown of what’s in the legislation:
  • $750 million to help states implement and manage crisis response programs. The money can be used to implement and manage red flag programs and for other crisis intervention programs like mental health courts, drug courts and veterans courts. Whether that money could be used for things other than red flag laws had been a main sticking point. Republicans were able to get money for states that don’t have red flag laws but have other crisis response programs.
  • Closing the so-called boyfriend loophole. This legislation fills a years-old loophole in domestic violence law that prohibited people convicted of crimes of domestic violence against a married partner, or partners with whom they shared children, or partners with whom they cohabited from have guns. The old laws did not include intimate partners who could not live together, be married or share children. Now the law will prohibit anyone convicted of a crime of domestic violence against someone with whom they have a “serious and ongoing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature” from having a firearm. The law is not retroactive. However, it will allow those convicted of domestic violence offenses to restore their gun rights after five years if they have not committed other crimes. This is a key concession to Republicans.
  • Requires more gun dealers to register as federally licensed gun dealers. The bill targets people who sell firearms as their primary source of income, but who have previously avoided registering as federally licensed firearms dealers. This is important because federally licensed dealers are required to administer background checks before selling a firearm to someone.
  • More in-depth reviews of people between the ages of 18 and 21 who want to buy firearms. The bill both encourages states to include minors’ records in the nation’s instant criminal background check system with grants and implements a new protocol for checking those records. It gives NICS three days to review an individual’s case. If anything potentially disqualifying happens, the NICS gets an additional seven days. If the review is not completed by then, the arms transfer is completed.
  • Creates new federal laws against gun trafficking and straw trafficking. Makes it easier to prosecute those who buy guns for people who are not allowed to buy guns on their own.
  • Increase funding for mental health and school safety programs. This money is being directed to a series of programs, many of which already exist but would be funded more vigorously under this act.

This story and headline were updated with additional developments on Tuesday.

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