The latest bill could be the most important one passed in the country since 1993
Exactly a month after the incident in Texas where a gunman entered a school and shot 21 people, including 19 children, U.S. President Joe Biden signed the most sweeping gun violence bill in decades, a bipartisan compromise that seemed unimaginable until the recent series of mass shootings. “Lives will be saved,” he said; citing the families of the shooting victims, he said, “Their message to us was to do something. Well today, we did.” Under the legislation, background checks will be tightened for young gun buyers, domestic violence offenders will be restricted from accessing firearms, and states will bring in laws that make it easier for the authorities to take weapons from people adjudged to be dangerous. The $13 billion budgeted under the law will be used to strengthen mental health programmes and help schools that suffered due to mass shootings. While the bill is not as tough as the Democrats would have wanted it to be, such as including a ban on assault-type weapons and putting in place mandatory background checks for all gun purchases, it is the most impactful measure from Congress since it passed a now-expired assault weapons ban in 1993.
The bill, called the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, says that before a firearm is sold to a person less than 21 years old, the criminal history or juvenile justice records must be checked, as also the person’s mental health records; the law enforcement agency of the state in which the person resides must also give their assent. This will help the authorities in determining if the person has a possibly disqualifying juvenile record within 3 days of the licensee approaching them. To prevent people from buying guns for others, the bill says that it would be unlawful for any person to knowingly purchase, or conspire to purchase, any firearm for, on behalf of, or at the request or demand of any other person, knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such other person intends to use, carry, possess, or sell or otherwise dispose of the firearm in furtherance of a felony, a federal crime of terrorism, or a drug trafficking crime. The penalty for “straw purchasing”, as stated in the bill, will be between 15 and 25 years of imprisonment. It blocks sales to those convicted of abusing their partners, and allows for funds to be provided to states to implement “red flag” laws, which will enable the authorities to confiscate firearms and weapons from people deemed to be dangerous.
Further, the bill says that it will be unlawful for any person to ship, transport, transfer, cause to be transported or otherwise dispose of any firearm to another person if such person knows or has reasonable cause to believe that the use, carrying, or possession of a firearm by the recipient would constitute a felony. The penalty for the same is 15 years of imprisonment. It also requires every state and federal agency to submit a detailed report on the removal from the system of records that no longer prohibit an individual from acquiring or possessing a firearm; the report should consist of the number of records removed and also specify why they were removed.
Though the bill has been welcomed by all sections, it, however, lacks strong measures that Democrats and anti-gun activists have been demanding for a long time, such as a ban on assault-type weapons and high-capacity magazine ammunition, and raising the minimum age for buying firearms. Even the National Rifle Association, a lobby group which supports gun rights in the U.S., came out against the bill, saying that it falls short at every level and 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. While it is not the perfect anti-gun legislation one could have wished for, it must be acknowledged that the bipartisan bill was urgently needed, and though it is a work in progress, as called by some senators, it will save lives.