The US Senate Passes First Bipartisan Gun Control Bill

Senate Passes

Image Source: CBS News

The US Senate passed a bipartisan measure on Thursday night to reduce gun violence, effectively the first meaningful federal gun safety legislation in decades.

A huge bipartisan victory on one of the nation’s most divisive policy issues was achieved in the final vote of 65 to 33 with the support of 15 Republicans who joined Democrats in favor of the proposal. However, before being delivered to President Joe Biden to be signed into law, the bill must first pass the House and wait for a vote there.

Millions of funds will be allocated as part of the bipartisan gun agreement for programs promoting mental health, school safety, crisis intervention, and state incentives to add juvenile records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

The so-called boyfriend loophole is also closed, which is a victory for Democrats who have long fought for it. But unfortunately, it also significantly alters the procedure for those between the ages of 18 and 21 seeking to purchase a firearm.

Even though it does not ban any weapons and falls far short of what Democrats and polls indicate the majority of Americans want, the package still represents the most significant piece of new federal legislation to address gun violence since the 1994 assault weapons ban, which had a 10-year ban that expired in 2017.

There were a few dozen spectators in the Senate gallery before the vote. For the historic vote in the chamber, senators had observed that survivors of gun violence, their families, and organizations were present.

Read Also: Gun control bill scales first hurdle in the US Senate

A New York gun statute passed more than a century ago that placed restrictions on carrying a concealed pistol outside the home were overturned by the Supreme Court on the same day that the federal gun safety bill was put to the vote.     

The decision exemplifies the competing political dynamics at play on the issue at all levels of government as the judicial branch executes the broadest expansion of gun rights in a decade, just as the legislative branch is on course to adopt its most important gun safety package in almost 30 years.

Earlier in the day, a crucial vote that advanced the proposal with Republican backing brought the Senate’s consideration of the gun safety law one step closer to passage.

The vote to end the filibuster was 65-34 in favor of Democrats, with 15 Republican senators joining them. The same 15 Republican senators who supported ending the filibuster also backed the bill’s final passage.

All 10 Senate Republicans who agreed to an initial framework agreement on gun safety have cast “yes” votes for the GOP, including John Cornyn of Texas, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. Blunt, Burr, Portman, and Toomey will retire this year—four of the original 10 Republican backers.

Sens. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Joni Ernst of Iowa, both members of the GOP leadership, also voted to end a filibuster on the measure with Sen. Mitch McConnell.

Sens. Todd Young of Indiana and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who were not among the original 10 Republicans to support the framework and are up for reelection in November, were two more notable Republicans who voted in favor of the framework.

After learning that the bill had been approved by the US Senate late on Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared that the House would be debating it on Friday.

After two recent horrific mass shootings, one at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and the other in a store in an area with a high Black population in Buffalo, New York, legislation was developed. 

The fact that the bill text has been finished and that the legislation now seems likely to pass the US Senate is a significant accomplishment for the negotiators who came together to reach an agreement.

Opinions expressed by San Francisco contributors are their own.


Alexandra Atlanova

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