House passes gun safety bill, sending measure to Biden’s desk
The House passed a gun safety bill on Friday, sending the measure to President Biden’s desk and marking the first time in nearly 30 years Congress has approved major legislation to combat gun violence.
The bill, dubbed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, passed in a 234-193 vote. Fourteen Republicans voted with Democrats in supporting the measure.
Republican Reps. Fred Upton (Mich.), Mike Turner (Ohio), Steve Chabot (Ohio), Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio), Liz Cheney (Wyo.), Chris Jacobs (N.Y.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Tony Gonzales (Texas), María Elvira Salazar (Fla.), Dave Joyce (Ohio), John Katko (N.Y.), Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), Peter Meijer (Mich.) and Tom Rice (S.C.) voted with Democrats in favor of the bill.
Three Republicans did not vote.
The House took up the legislation early Friday morning, just hours after the Senate approved the measure in a bipartisan 65-33 vote. Fifteen Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), joined all Democrats in supporting the measure in the upper chamber.
Biden expressed support for the Senate’s proposal earlier this month after negotiators released a framework, writing in a statement that the measure would represent “the most significant gun safety legislation to pass Congress in decades.”
“Each day that passes, more children are killed in this country: the sooner it comes to my desk, the sooner I can sign it, and the sooner we can use these measures to save lives,” he added.
The legislation calls for enhancing background checks for gun purchasers between the age of 18 and 21, creating a federal offense for individuals who obtain firearms through straw purchases or trafficking and clarifying the definition of a federally licensed firearm dealer.
The latter change would require that people who regularly purchase and sell firearms register as Federal Firearm Licensees, which would oblige them to complete background checks for firearm transactions.
The bill would also allocate $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. The measure also includes funding for mental health treatment.
Additionally, the legislation 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.
Currently, individuals convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence are only blocked from having firearms if their wrongdoing involves a spouse, person they share a child with or a cohabitating partner.
The bill also lays out a restitution process for romantic partners convicted of domestic violence misdemeanor crimes. Under the legislation, individuals would automatically regain their right to possess a firearm five years after their criminal sentence is complete as long as they were not convicted of a violent crime during that waiting period.
A bipartisan group of senators began negotiations for a gun bill days after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, which killed 19 students and two adults. Ten days before that massacre, a gunman opened fire at a grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y., killing 10 Black individuals.
House passage of the bill comes exactly one month after the shooting in Uvalde.
In remarks from the House floor on Friday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) referenced the shootings in Uvalde and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six adults were fatally shot in 2012.
“All of us who have met with survivors in the wake of the tragedies have heard their message loud and clear: We must do something. Today, in their honor, we heed their powerful cry, sending the major gun violence prevention legislation to President Biden’s desk for signature,” Pelosi said.
Republicans were largely opposed to the measure, and House GOP leadership urged members of its conference to vote against the legislation. In a memo to House Republican offices sent on Wednesday, Minority Whip Steve Scalise’s (R-La.) office said the bill “takes the wrong approach in attempting to curb violent crimes.”
“House Republicans are committed to identifying and solving the root causes of violent crimes, but doing so must not infringe upon the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens,” the memo added.
During debate on the House floor Friday, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), a co-chair of the Second Amendment Caucus, said the bill is a “step backwards” for saving lives and a “small step forward” for banning guns.“
“This bill is ineffective, unconstitutional and ill-conceived without consideration for the dangerous, unintended consequences,” he added.
While Democrats hailed the legislation as a step toward curbing gun violence, some in the party did not shy away from asserting that the measure was not as extensive as they had hoped.
“Of course, I have to say that this bill doesn’t do everything we would like to do,” Pelosi said on the House floor during debate.
“I say to my colleagues, I frequently do, but it applies here more than ever: let us not judge this legislation for what is not in it, but respect it for what it does. And what it does is save lives. And we’re very, very proud of that,” she added.
Last month, the House passed a sweeping gun package in a largely party-line vote. The legislation called for raising the minimum age for purchasing a semi-automatic weapon from 18 to 21 and banning civilian use of magazines with more than 15 rounds, among other provisions.
One day later, the chamber cleared a bill to nationalize red flag laws.
— Updated at 4:52 p.m.