The U.S. House of Representatives passed controversial legislation putting new limits on who may purchase and possess firearms.
In a 234-193 vote, 14 Republicans - six of whom won't be in Congress next year - joined with all Democrats who were present voting for the bill. The bill now awaits President Joe Biden’s signature.
The White House said Biden would sign the bill and deliver remarks on it Saturday morning.
The bill, crafted by senators from both parties, would incrementally toughen requirements for young people to buy guns, deny firearms from more domestic abusers and help local authorities temporarily take weapons from people judged to be dangerous. Most of its $13 billion cost would go to bolster mental health programs and for schools.
It omits far tougher restrictions Democrats have long championed like a ban on assault-type weapons and background checks for all gun transactions but is the most impactful firearms violence measure Congress has approved since 1993.
Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL07) voted in favor of the legislation, while Congressman Mike Rogers (R-AL03) and other members of Alabama’s delegation voted against the bill.
The bill passed the Senate after moderate Republicans joined with Democrats to pass the compromise gun control bill – the most sweeping in decades and a major legislative victory for President Biden.
“Just a day after the Supreme Court affirmed our Constitutional right to own guns, Speaker Pelosi puts legislation on the House floor that will chip away at our Second Amendment,” Rogers said in a statement. “This bill will allow taxpayer dollars to fund government-run gun confiscation programs and criminalize gun transactions between law-abiding citizens. What part of 'the right of the people to keep and bear arms' does Speaker Pelosi not understand?”
Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL06) also voted "no," calling the bill an attempt to bribe states.
“The solution to gun violence is not bribing states to implement programs which infringe upon the 2nd and 4th amendment rights of the American people,” Palmer said. “This is another missed opportunity to specifically address school safety and the root cause of mass shootings. This broad piece of legislation is being foisted on the American people with hardly any debate and has the potential to violate the rights of law-abiding citizens.
“Now is the time to address school safety as well as public safety in our country by enforcing current state laws against threats of violence and focusing on the underlying mental health issues many of these criminals have in common. Unfortunately, this legislation is another example of left-wing Democrats taking advantage of a tragedy to advance their agenda under the guise of dealing with the epidemic of violence afflicting our nation.
Sewell felt the bill did not go as far as she would have liked, but that it was taking a step in the right direction.
“After decades of inaction, Congress is finally taking steps to address the gun violence epidemic in America,” said Sewell. “I applaud my Senate colleagues for coming to a bipartisan agreement on gun violence prevention legislation. This bill will take meaningful action to curb our nation’s gun violence epidemic and save lives without infringing on the rights of responsible gun owners. Notably, this bill would close the boyfriend loophole, strengthen background checks, crack down on illegal gun trafficking, and make substantial investments in our nation’s broken mental health system.
“While this bill is not as robust as we would have hoped, any action is better than no action at all. I was proud to cast my vote for the Safer Communities Act and will continue to push my colleagues for more action to keep our communities safe!”
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act:
· Encourages states to pass controversial “red flag laws” by providing $750 million in federal funds for “State Crisis Intervention Orders” for states to create and administer. Local authorities will be able to seize citizens' weapons based on tips from family members, neighbors, and acquaintances claiming that the citizen is a danger to him or herself or to the community. The citizen would then have to go to court and prove they are not unfit to exercise their Second Amendment rights.
· Protects Victims of Domestic Violence by Closing the Boyfriend Loophole: Adds convicted domestic violence abusers in dating relationships to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
· Creates Penalties for Straw Purchasing: Creates federal straw purchasing and gun trafficking criminal offenses, allowing prosecutors to target dangerous illegal gunrunners.
· Clarifies Definition of Federally Licensed Firearms Dealer: Cracks down on criminals who illegally evade licensing requirements and clarifies which sellers need to register, conduct background checks, and keep appropriate records.
· Strengthens Background Checks for People Under 21: Requires an investigative period to review juvenile and mental health records, including checks with state databases and local law enforcement, for buyers under 21 years of age, creating an enhanced, longer background check of up to ten days.
· Funds Anti-Violence Community Initiatives: Provides $250 million in funding for community-based violence prevention initiatives.
· Invests in Mental Health Services for Children and Families: Supports national expansion of community behavioral health center model, improves access to mental health services for children, youth and families through the Medicaid program and CHIP, increases access to mental health services for youth and families in crisis via telehealth, and provides major investments at the Department of Health and Human Services in programs that expand provider training in mental health, support suicide prevention, crisis and trauma intervention and recovery.
· Increases Funding for Schools: Invests in programs to expand mental health and supportive services in schools, including early identification and intervention programs, school-based mental health and wrap-around services, improvements in school-wide learning conditions, and school safety.
Sewell’s office wrote that “Gun violence is a national public health epidemic disproportionately affecting communities of color in urban settings. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in a new Vital Signs analysis, firearms accounted for 79% of all homicides and 53% of all suicides in 2020. Gun violence in America is responsible for more than 45,000 deaths per year, including 1,090 in Alabama alone. Every day, 30 Americans are murdered with a gun—a number that rises to more than 100 when counting suicides and accidental shootings. In addition to this daily loss of life, gun violence continues to inflict a heavy financial burden—imposing $2.8 billion in emergency room and inpatient costs on Americans each year.”
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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