Weeks after the tragedies in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, the U.S. Senate has taken initial steps towards passing the first major gun legislation in decades. The package cleared a procedural threshold hurdle in a 64-34 vote, marking a rare display of compromise from a chamber that has been at loggerheads on almost every issue. Agreement on the bipartisan 80-page gun violence bill could potentially tee up final passage by week's end, before Congress goes on a two-week recess for July 4.
What's in the bill? Federal background checks for gun buyers aged 18 to 20 would include examination of the purchaser's juvenile and mental health records, while beefing up penalties on gun traffickers. It would also close the so-called boyfriend loophole by blocking gun sales to those convicted of abusing unmarried intimate partners (gun rights would be restored after five years if they didn't not commit another serious crime). A $750M fund would also be established to help states put in place red-flag laws, while millions more would be allocated to community behavioral health centers, training first responders, and investing in school safety and mental health services.
Estimates of the cost of the bill range in the billions of dollars, but lawmakers aren't demanding a formal estimate before voting on the legislation. Lead Democratic bargainer, Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, said it would be fully paid for, with some expecting to cover costs by continuing to delay the end of a Trump-era rule surrounding rebates that drugmakers give to Medicare middlemen. While the rule never went into effect, it was expected to cost the government money, so Congress can claim the additional savings.
What's not in the bill? The legislation stops short of banning assault-style weapons or raising the age limit for purchasing the guns from 18 to 21. Both shooters in Uvalde and Buffalo were 18-year-olds who used assault rifles they bought themselves, a profile that matches many recent mass shooters. The new measure also won't prohibit high-capacity magazines, do away with the internet and gun show loophole, or amend/repeal the federal liability shield that protects gun manufacturers from being sued for violence.
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