Biden signs bipartisan gun safety bill into law

File - President Biden speaks at the White House after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Andrew Harnik/The Associated Press
File – President Biden speaks at the White House after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

President Biden on Saturday signed into law the most wide-ranging gun violence prevention bill that Congress has passed in nearly 30 years.

Biden signed the bipartisan gun safety bill, which was drafted in the wake of the deadly mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, N.Y., the day after it cleared the House in a 234-193 vote. Fourteen Republicans voted with Democrats in supporting the measure.

“Time is of the essence. Lives will be saved,” Biden said, adding that when he returns from a trip to Europe, he will host the lawmakers who worked on the legislation and family members of gun violence victims at the White House.

The House took up the bill hours after the Senate approved it in a 65-33 vote on Thursday night. Fifteen Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), joined all Democrats in supporting the measure in the upper chamber.

“Today, we say more than enough. We said more than enough. It’s time when it seems impossible to get anything done in Washington, we are doing some consequential,” he said, joined at the podium by first lady Jill Biden. “I know there’s much more work to do. I’m never going to give up.” 

Biden, who said today is a “monumental day,” thanked the leaders in Congress who got the bill across the finish line and thanked the families of victims, who the president and the first lady have met with.

“I’ve been at this work for a long, long time and I know how hard it is and I know what is takes to get it done,” he said.

The bill, known as the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, enhances background checks for gun purchasers between the age of 18 and 21, makes obtaining firearms through straw purchases or trafficking a federal offense and clarifies the definition of a federally licensed firearm dealer.

It allocates $750 million to help states administer red flag laws, which seek to keep guns away from people deemed a threat to themselves or others, and other intervention programs, and it includes funding for mental health treatment.

Additionally, it closes the so-called boyfriend loophole by barring individuals from possessing a firearm for at least five years if they are convicted of a misdemeanor crime of violence involving a current or former romantic partner. It extends the law that previously only applied to abuse against spouses, a person they share a child with or a cohabitating partner.

“While this bill doesn’t do everything I want, it does include actions I’ve long called for that are going to save lives,” he said.

The president’s bill signing comes just an hour before he is set to leave the White House for the Group of Seven summit in Germany.

Biden said that the message to him from victims’ families is always “do something,” mentioning mass shootings from El Paso, Las Vegas, Parkland, Charleston, and others, and those that happen on the streets that people don’t hear about.

“For God’s sake, just do something. Well today, we did,” he said.

Biden largely waited on the sidelines for a bipartisan group of senators to finalize the bill and had left it up to Capitol Hill to come to an agreement. He has called on Congress to pass some form of gun control legislation since he took office, specifically to reinstate an assault weapon ban that expired in 2004, which he helped pass as a senator. 

Biden ran for president in 2020 as an ally to the gun violence prevention movement. Earlier this week, he said Congress for too long has failed to make progress on gun violence.

He was vice president when a gunman killed 26 people at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., in 2012. At the time, Congress failed to pass stronger gun laws, which would have expanded background checks and instituted an assault weapons ban.

On Thursday, the president condemned the Supreme Court ruling that struck down a New York state law that made it difficult to obtain a permit to carry a handgun outside the home, saying that more must be done to protect Americans in the wake of the Uvalde and Buffalo mass shootings.

Updated: 9:20 a.m.

Tags bipartisan gun safety bill buffalo shooting Gun reform gun safety bill Joe Biden Texas school shooting

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