The Senate finalized a gun control bill Tuesday following a spate of deadly mass shootings across America — setting up a potential vote on passage before lawmakers break for the July 4 holiday at the end of this week.
A bipartisan negotiating group unveiled a framework of a bill on June 12 and had been engaged in frantic talks to hammer out the final text amid public outrage over the massacres at a Texas elementary school on May 24 and a Buffalo supermarket on May 14 that killed a total of 31 people and came amid an upswing of gun crime in cities across America.
“This is a breakthrough, and more importantly, this is a bipartisan breakthrough,” lead Democratic negotiator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said on the Senate floor. Late Tuesday, the bill cleared an initial test vote with the support of 14 Republican senators.
The measure does not include provisions sought by President Biden and other Democrats — which included an assault weapons ban and raising the legal age to buy a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21.
It does include requirements that juvenile offender records be included in any background check of a would-be gun buyer under 21 years of age; increases the penalty for gun trafficking to 15 years — and 25 years if a trafficked gun is used in a felony, act of terrorism or drug trafficking crime; and includes funding for states to boost school safety and mental health treatment — as well as pass so-called “red flag” laws.
The National Rifle Association was quick to express its opposition to the bill, saying it “falls short at every level.”
“It does little to truly address violent crime while opening the door to unnecessary burdens on the exercise of Second Amendment freedom by law-abiding gun owners,” the gun-rights group said in a statement.
“Some think it goes too far, others think it doesn’t go far enough. And I get it. It’s the nature of compromise,” said the lead Republican negotiator, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.
“I believe that the same people who are telling us to do something are sending us a clear message, to do what we can to keep our children and communities safe,” he went on. “I’m confident this legislation moves us in a positive direction.”
The talks had recently stalled as senators debated including so-called “Hyde Amendment” language to bar any federal funds in the proposal from being used to pay for abortions.
Cornyn told Reuters that impasse had been resolved, saying: “Hyde applies.”
Other sticking points in the measure included the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” which concerns whether dating partners guilty of domestic violence can own firearms, and incentives for states to enact so-called “red flag” laws.
The final draft of the measure would bar current and “recent former” dating partners from owning a gun if convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, but would restore the right to own a firearm after five years if no other violent or misdemeanor convictions were recorded.
The measure would need support from at least 10 Republican senators to clear the upper chamber, which is divided 50-50.
With Post wires