The House is expected to pass a bipartisan bill on Friday to address gun violence that will amount to the first major federal gun safety legislation in decades.
Once the House has approved the measure, it will go to President Joe Biden to be signed into law, marking a significant bipartisan breakthrough on one of the most contentious policy issues in Washington. The Senate passed the bill in a late-night vote Thursday.
The measure includes millions of dollars for mental health, school safety, crisis intervention programs and incentives for states to include juvenile records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
It also makes significant changes to the process when someone ages 18 to 21 goes to buy a firearm and closes the so-called boyfriend loophole, a victory for Democrats, who have long fought for that.
The package represents the most significant new federal legislation to address gun violence since the expired 10-year assault weapons ban of 1994 – though it fails to ban any weapons and falls far short of what Democrats and polls show most Americans want to see.
Despite broad bipartisan support for the bill in the Senate, top House Republican leaders have lined up in opposition to it and are urging their members to vote “no.”
But even with House GOP leaders opposing the bill, there are already some House Republicans who have indicated they plan to vote for it, and the Democratic-controlled chamber is expected to be able to pass the legislation.
The bill passed the Senate on Thursday with 15 Republicans joining Democrats in support. The final tally was 65-33.
Shortly after Senate passage of the bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the Rules committee would convene Friday morning to prepare the bill for floor action.
“When the Rules Committee finishes its business, we will head immediately to the Floor. And we will send the bill to President Biden for his signature, with gratitude for his leadership,” Pelosi said in a statement.
The bill includes $750 million to help states implement and run crisis intervention programs. The money can be used to implement and manage red flag programs – which through court orders can temporarily prevent individuals in crisis from accessing firearms – and for other crisis intervention programs like mental health courts, drug courts and veterans courts.
This bill closes a years-old loophole in domestic violence law – the “boyfriend loophole” – which barred individuals who have been convicted of domestic violence crimes against spouses, partners with whom they shared children or partners with whom they cohabitated from having guns. Old statutes didn’t include intimate partners who may not live together, be married or share children. Now the law will bar from having a gun anyone who is convicted of a domestic violence crime against someone they have a “continuing serious relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.”
The law isn’t retroactive. It will, however, allow those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes to restore their gun rights after five years if they haven’t committed other crimes.
The bill encourages states to include juvenile records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System with grants as well as implements a new protocol for checking those records.
The bill goes after individuals who sell guns as primary sources of income but have previously evaded registering as federally licensed firearms dealers. It also increases funding for mental health programs and school security.
The legislation came together in the aftermath of recent mass shootings at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school and a Buffalo, New York, supermarket that was in a predominantly Black neighborhood.
A bipartisan group of negotiators set to work in the Senate and unveiled legislative text on Tuesday. The bill – titled the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act – was released by Republican Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
Lawmakers are now racing to pass the bill before they leave Washington for the July Fourth recess.
The deal marks a rare instance of compromise across party lines on one of the most contentious issues in Washington – a feat in today’s highly polarized political environment.
Reaching a bipartisan agreement on major gun legislation has been notoriously difficult for lawmakers in recent years even in the face of countless mass shootings across the country.
As lawmakers searched for a compromise, there were points at which it was not clear whether the effort would succeed or fall apart. But while the bipartisan effort appeared to be on thin ice after several key sticking points emerged, ultimately negotiators were able to resolve issues that arose.