US Congress Passes First Major Federal Gun Safety Law In Decades

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(WABNEWS) — The House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill on Friday to tackle gun violence that marks the first major federal gun safety legislation in decades.

Now, the approved bill goes to President Joe Biden to sign it into law, marking a major bipartisan breakthrough on one of Washington’s most contentious political issues. The Senate had approved the bill in a vote late on Thursday.

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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 introduces significant changes to the process when someone between the ages of 18 and 21 goes to buy a firearm and closes the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” a victory for Democrats, who have long fought for it.

The package represents the most significant new federal legislation to tackle gun violence since the 1994 assault weapons ban, which expired 10 years ago, though it does not ban any guns and is a far cry from what Democrats and polls show that most Americans want to see.

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The bill passed the Senate on Thursday with the support of 15 Republicans who joined Democrats. The final result was 65-33.

Shortly after the bill passed the Senate, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the rules committee would meet this Friday morning to prepare the bill for passage on the floor.

“When the commission completes its work, we will immediately go to the floor. And we will send the bill to President Biden for his signature, thanking him for his leadership,” Pelosi said in a statement.

Main provisions of the gun bill

The bill includes $750 million to help states launch and manage crisis intervention programs. The money can be used to set up and run red flag programs—which, through court orders, can temporarily prevent people in crisis from accessing firearms—and for other crisis intervention programs such as mental health courts, drug and veterans courts.

This bill closes a years-old loophole in domestic violence law—the “boyfriend loophole”—that prohibited people who had been convicted of domestic violence crimes against their spouses, partners with whom they shared children or partners with whom they lived. The old statutes did not include intimate partners who were not living together, married, or shared children.

Now the law will prohibit anyone convicted of a crime of domestic violence against someone with whom they have a “serious and continuing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature” from having a weapon.

The law is not retroactive. However, it will allow those convicted of minor domestic violence offenses to regain their right to arms after five years if they have not committed any other offences.

The bill encourages states to include juvenile records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System with grants, as well as implement a new protocol for checking those records.

The bill targets individuals who sell firearms as their primary source of income, but have previously avoided registering as a federally licensed firearms dealer. It also increases funding for mental health programs and school safety.

A Bipartisan Compromise on Guns Fueled by Tragic Mass Shootings

The legislation was crafted in the wake of recent mass shootings at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, located in a predominantly black neighborhood.

A bipartisan group of negotiators went to work in the Senate and released the legislative text on Tuesday. The bill — titled the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act — was introduced by Republican Senators John Cornyn of Texas and Thomson of New York. John Cornyn of Texas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Democratic Senators Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

Lawmakers are now rushing to pass the bill before leaving Washington for the July 4 recess.

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The agreement marks a rare case of compromise across party lines on one of the most contentious issues in Washington, a feat in today’s highly polarized political environment.

Reaching 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 times when it was unclear whether the effort would succeed or fall apart. However, while the bipartisan effort appeared to be on the rocks after several key sticking points emerged, negotiators were ultimately able to resolve the issues that arose.

WABNEWS’s Lauren Fox, Ali Zaslav and Melanie Zanona contributed to this report.

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