Fourteen Republicans joined Democrats in the Senate to move forward a gun control bill on Tuesday evening.
Bipartisan support of a gun control measure is notable. The BBC reported, “This is the first time in decades that proposed gun safety legislation has received this level of support from both Republican and Democratic party senators.”
The bill falls short of what many progressives hoped for, but does included provisions for tougher background checks for buyers younger than 21, $15 billion in federal funding for mental health programs and school security upgrades, and it blocks gun sales to those convicted of abusing unmarried partners (thus closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole”).
Influential Republican Senators such as Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) opened the door for others to endorse the bill.
The other Republican Senators supporting the bill are Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rep. Todd Young (R-IN), Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).
The bill could move out of the Senate as early as this week. It will then move to the House where it is expected to pass by a large margin. Following approval in the House, the bill will be presented to President Biden for approval.
According to Fox News, the bill “provides grants for states that implement their own red flag laws and offers additional funding for both school safety measures and mental health services.”
Some argue that the bill allows states to access funding only if they enact ‘red flag laws’ to restrict gun ownership or magazine capacity.
Others, such as Senator Cornyn, claimed on the Senate floor Tuesday that the bill “would not create a national red flag law, adding that states could receive the funding regardless of whether they enact such a program,” The Hill reported.
Fox News noted: “The measure also creates penalties for straw purchases of firearms [and] requires more gun sellers to register as Federally Licensed Firearm Dealers…”
Reaction to the pending legislation has been mixed. Gulf News reported the following comments:
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), the Lead Democratic negotiator, said, “This is a breakthrough. This bill is going to save lives.”
Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), the Lead Republican negotiator, said, “I am proud that this mental health and school safety bill places NO NEW RESTRICTIONS on law-abiding gun owners.”
Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer said: “This bipartisan gun-safety legislation is progress and will save lives. While it is not everything we want, this legislation is urgently needed.”
LEX News reports Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, describing the legislation as “a common-sense package.”
The National Rifle Association (NRA) opposed the bill, saying in a statement:
“We will oppose this gun control legislation because it falls short at every level. It does little to truly address violent crime while opening the door to unnecessary burdens on the exercise of Second Amendment freedom by law-abiding gun owners.”
Gun Owners of America (GOA) released several strong statements condemning the legislation, claiming it will “encourage Backdoor Universal Background Checks by redefining many private sellers as gun dealers, financially incentivize states to enact unconstitutional ‘red-flag’ laws, and would allow for so-called ‘enhanced background checks,’ which are arbitrary delays in transferring firearms to adults not yet 21 years old.”
Erich Pratt, GOA’s Senior Vice President, said, “Once again, so-called ‘conservative’ Senators are making clear they believe that the rights of American citizens can be compromised away.”
“Let me be clear, they have NO AUTHORITY to compromise with our rights, and we will not tolerate legislators who are willing to turn gun owners into second-class citizens. GOA fully opposes this unconstitutional legislation and will continue to encourage our millions of members to make their voices heard to their elected officials on this bill.”