WASHINGTON — The Senate moved closer Thursday to approving bipartisan legislation to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, as a small group of Republicans joined Democrats in breaking their party’s blockade and bring what would be the first substantial gun safety. measure in decades at the edge of the passage.
Fifteen Republicans, including Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Minority Leader, joined Democrats in a crucial test vote that paved the way for the Senate to pass the measure as early as Thursday. The 65-34 vote more than crossed the 60-vote threshold needed to break a Republican filibuster, breaking a three-decade string of failures over gun legislation. A Republican senator was absent.
Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, said he intends to present the bill for a vote on final passage by the end of the day, although timing may to change.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said the House would move quickly to eliminate him once the Senate acts. White House officials said President Biden would sign the measure, calling it “one of the most important steps Congress has taken to reduce gun violence in decades.”
“It’s not a panacea for all the ways gun violence affects our nation, but it’s a long overdue step in the right direction,” Schumer said. “It’s important – it will save lives.”
The compromise, the product of a series of intensive talks between a small group of Democrats and Republicans, omits many of the sweeping gun control measures that Democrats and activists have long called for. The negotiations unfolded after a pair of back-to-back mass shootings — one at a grocery store in Buffalo and another at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas — generated a national outcry for the action and pushed senators on both sides to find at least some common ground after decades of stalemate.
The result is the bipartisan “Safer Communities Act,” which would improve background checks on potential gun buyers under the age of 21, extending the timeline from three to 10 days and allowing law enforcement for the first time to examine mental and juvenile health records. .
It would also set aside $750 million in federal grants to help states implement so-called red flag laws, which allow authorities to temporarily confiscate guns if a court finds a person to be a danger to themselves or others, and to other intervention programs, including mental health courts.
And for the first time, it would include current or recent serious dating partners in a federal law that prohibits domestic abusers from being able to buy a gun, closing what has become the boyfriend loophole.
In addition, the measure would strengthen criminal penalties for straw buying – the purchase and supply of firearms to people who are not entitled to own a firearm – and arms trafficking. .
Working to keep Republicans on board, Democrats ditched their gun control proposals, including a House-passed measure that would ban the sale of semi-automatic rifles to people under 21, a ban of the sale of high-capacity magazines and a federal red flag law. They also agreed that enhanced background checks for young buyers would expire after a decade, much like the assault weapons ban did in 2004, leaving future Congresses to negotiate again on whether to ban it. to prolong.
Even so, the National Rifle Association fiercely opposed the bill, saying in a statement that it “does little to truly address violent crime while opening the door to unnecessary charges on the exercise of Second Amendment freedom by law-abiding gun owners”.
The legislation sets aside millions of dollars, largely in the form of grants, to tackle mental health in schools and communities, including setting aside $150 million for the National Mental Health Helpline. suicide. It also provides funds to enhance school safety.
Republican supporters, facing significant backlash from gun rights groups and the majority of their colleagues, were careful to highlight their success in limiting the bill’s reach, including by making circulating an endorsement from the National Sheriffs’ Association.
“Sheriffs see firsthand the daily carnage of gun violence perpetrated by felons and people with mental illness,” the group wrote in a letter. “We appreciate the authors who have come together on a bill that can truly save lives, that is crafted in a way that allows states to craft their own unique responses to the questions raised by gun violence.”