Congress reacted to recent gun massacres Friday by passing the most restrictive federal firearms legislation in decades. This comes just one day after the Supreme Court struck down a New York state law concerning concealed carry.
It has been a tumultuous week in Washington, to put it mildly.
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act cleared the House with a 234-193 vote that saw 14 Republicans fall in line with every Democratic representative. The Senate on Thursday voted 65-33 in favor with 15 GOP members joining Democrats, though only two face reelection this year.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who was instrumental in negotiations leading up to Thursday’s Senate vote, explained that “doing nothing is an abdication of our responsibility.” He referred to the Uvalde massacre and others.
It will certainly be signed into law by President Joe Biden.
The president was quick to crow about the passage. Citing “28 years of inaction,” Biden said Congress finally addressed the “scourge of gun violence” sweeping the country.
The bill enhances background checks for gun buyers between 18 and 20 years of age. This is in response to recent horrific mass shootings by 18-year-olds in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas. The bill allows information on significant crimes committed as a juvenile to be checked.
A Democratic call for banning assault-style rifles for that age group never gained traction.
It includes billions in funding to support state mental health programs and to bolster school security. The “boyfriend loophole,” which allowed unmarried partners convicted of domestic abuse to own firearms, was closed.
There are also grants established to encourage states to adopt “red flag” laws that try to disarm people believed to be a threat to themselves or others.
The bill marks a rare victory for President Biden, and Democrats were quick to confirm what everyone already knew. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) proclaimed, Congress must now go further with tighter restrictions on “high-capacity armament.”
The consequences — or lack of consequences — for Republicans who supported the legislation will be clearer as the midterm elections draw closer. What is clear already is that battle lines are more entrenched and the coming months will be quite interesting.