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What Is in the Senate's Gun Bill?

By Alex Sirek on June 21, 2022 11:38 AM

Following the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, a bipartisan group of Senate negotiators announced that they reached a deal on gun safety measures. This means that Congress could pass significant gun-control measures for the first time in decades.

Federal Gun Control Framework

The legislation is still a work in progress and is not fully comprehensive, but gun-control advocates argue that it still has the potential to prevent future mass shootings.

The framework proposes multiple measures:

  • Stronger background checks for gun buyers under 21
  • Barring domestic abusers from purchasing or possessing a firearm
  • Increasing funding for mental health and school safety
  • Cracking down on gun traffickers and straw purchases
  • Providing money to states to encourage them to pass "red flag" laws, which allow judges to seize guns from risky individuals

Stricter Background Checks

The Senate framework does not increase the minimum age to purchase a firearm. If passed, this gun bill will require strict background checks for anyone under 21 who attempts to purchase a firearm.

These stricter background checks would, for the first time, include a search of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System's juvenile-justice and mental-health records for gun purchasers under 21.

Closing the 'Boyfriend Loophole'

Federal law bans convicted domestic abusers from gun ownership if they have ever been married to, have a child with, or have ever lived with their victim.

If they do not fall within one of those categories, they can still legally purchase a firearm. This is known as the "boyfriend loophole."

As 23% of over 150 evaluated mass shootings involved a shooter with a reported history of domestic abuse, closing the loophole could greatly reduce the number of mass shootings, advocates contend.

Additionally, it could save the lives of many domestic violence victims, as more than half of all female homicides across 18 states involved domestic violence, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study.

Funding Mental Health and School Safety

The proposed framework authorizes significant funding for mental-health services inside and outside of schools.

If passed, it would most likely involve a public health approach, including the creation of a nationwide network of community-based mental-health clinics. Schools could use the money to implement behavioral intervention programs and fund security programs and armed guards.

The Crackdown on Gun Traffickers and 'Straw Purchasing'

This framework targets both legal and illegal means of acquiring firearms. Currently, there is no federal law banning interstate gun trafficking.

By implementing restrictions on national gun trafficking and "straw purchasing," the framework's supporters hope that this bill would lessen violence in states and keep guns out of the hands of convicted felons who are banned from owning firearms.

For instance, the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence argues that guns purchased in states with looser firearm laws make up a huge portion of guns used in shootings in states with tougher laws like New York and Illinois.

A "straw purchase" is when someone buys a gun for someone who is not legally allowed to own a gun or for someone who does not want their gun ownership traced. A 2017 study estimates that more than 30,000 straw purchases are attempted each year.

'Red Flag' Laws

Red flag laws or extreme risk protection orders, allow for a judge to take guns away from a person who could be a danger to themselves or others.

A first responder, doctor, or family member of a person in crisis can petition a court to temporarily seize that person's firearms, regardless of whether they have a criminal record or history of mental illness.

Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia have some form of red-flag law. Under this proposed framework, the federal government will provide money to states that pass their own red-flag laws.

What Can You Expect in the Coming Weeks?

Many Democrats and gun-control allies have critiqued the framework, claiming that it is not strict enough. However, in a 50-50 Senate, this might be the only set of restrictions that has a chance of passing.

With Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, signaling support for the framework, it is likely that if put to a vote, at least 11 Republicans would vote in favor of the proposed bill, overcoming any filibuster attempts. All Democratic senators will likely vote in favor of the final bill.

Currently, it looks as if the bill could pass if put to a vote. However, it could fall apart if a Republican supporter were to back down.

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