A bipartisan gun control bill cleared the Senate filibuster hurdle on Thursday, with Republicans providing the necessary votes to all but guarantee passage of the first major federal firearm laws in decades.
The bill, which would expand background checks to include juvenile records and give states incentives to adopt “red flag” laws to confiscate guns from people deemed dangerous by a judge, survived the Senate test vote 65-34, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and 14 other Republicans joining the chamber’s Democrats to advance the legislation.
“The American people want their constitutional rights protected and their kids to be safe in school. They want both those things at once. And that is just what the bill before the Senate will help accomplish,” Mr. McConnell said.
The action in Congress was spurred by a series of mass shootings that horrified the nation, including a racially motivated attack that killed 10 Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and a rampage at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 children and two teachers.
“Americans have waited long enough. Let us finish our job today,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said on the floor. “As we take the final steps in this process, few could have anticipated we’d reach this point just a few weeks ago the morning after the tragedy in Uvalde.”
The legislation is expected to pass the upper chamber by Friday. It then would head to the House for a final vote, where it is expected to pass before Congress leaves for a two-week recess.
SEE ALSO: Biden praises Senate for cloture vote on guns, chides Congress for taking decade to pass bill
The bill will deliver a big win for President Biden, who has championed stricter gun control laws throughout his long political career.
Mr. Biden cheered the breakthrough in the Senate and lamented that it took so many years to get to this point.
“Our country has endured too many tragedies since then, most recently with the horrific shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde,” he said. “Our kids in schools and our communities will be safer because of this legislation. I call on Congress to finish the job and get this bill to my desk.”
Sen. Christopher Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who led the negotiations with Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, heralded the legislation as a bipartisan triumph.
“Congress has decided to put its politics ahead of the safety of this country year after year. Despite the fact that the changes necessary to make this country safer really aren’t controversial at all,” he said.
Despite the support from 15 Senate Republicans to clear the 60-vote hurdle that killed previous gun bills, the legislation remains unpopular with most Republicans and with gun rights groups such as the National Rifle Association.
SEE ALSO: Rubio moves to block Biden from expanding abortion with emergency orders
Former President Donald Trump criticized Mr. McConnell for his role in helping get the bill to Mr. Biden’s desk.
Mr. Trump wrote Thursday on Truth Social: “Mitch McConnell’s push for Republican Senators to vote for Gun Control will be the final straw. Just like he gave away the Debt Ceiling and got NOTHING in return, or handed the Dems a great sound bite and victory with the Infrastructure Bill, which is actually all about the Green New Deal, he is now forcing approval of the FIRST STEP IN TAKING AWAY YOUR GUNS! Republican Senators SHOULD NOT VOTE FOR THIS CAREER ENDING BILL!!!”
The bill contains a slew of expanded gun control laws and funding for school security and mental health treatment, including:
• Incentives for states to adopt red flag laws or other crisis intervention programs.
• An expansion of the definition of domestic violence to close the “boyfriend loophole” by including dating relationships. It blocks people with such convictions from gun ownership.
• Eligibility for gun ownership for individuals with domestic violence charges after five years provided they keep a clean criminal record.
• A felony designation for individuals who purchase guns for those who cannot legally buy or own them.
• An expansion of federal background checks to include state juvenile records and to make it illegal to sell guns or ammunition to people with felony juvenile records.
• A requirement for individuals who repeatedly buy and sell firearms to license as gun dealers.
• An additional $100 million in taxpayer funds for the federal background check system.
• A $2 billion allocation to the Education Department for mental health and school safety.
• $1 billion in grants for mental health programs to be administered by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Second Amendment advocacy organizations, including the NRA and Gun Owners of America, oppose the bill. The National Shooting and Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearm industry, also opposes the legislation.
The NRA said the legislation falls short of the goal of improving safety and security while threatening Second Amendment rights.
“This legislation can be abused to restrict lawful gun purchases, infringe upon the rights of law-abiding Americans, and use federal dollars to fund gun control measures being adopted by state and local politicians. This bill leaves too much discretion in the hands of government officials and also contains undefined and overbroad provisions — inviting interference with our constitutional freedoms,” the NRA said in a statement.
In the House, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Republican Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana are whipping against the legislation, but some Republican defections are expected and House Democrats should be able to pass the bill without Republican support.
“Obviously, Nancy Pelosi is the speaker, so she has the majority,” Mr. Scalise said. “But we’re pushing for reforms in the mental health system [and] we shouldn’t be taking away or infringing upon the rights of law-abiding citizens to own a gun.”
House Republicans expected to back the bill include Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas, whose district includes Uvalde.
“I am a survivor of domestic abuse, my stepfather would come home drunk and beat on me and my mother,” he wrote on social media. “School was my sanctuary from the chaos at home. … As a congressman it’s my duty to pass laws that never infringe on the Constitution while protecting the lives of the innocent.”