Thursday, the U.S. Senate passed a so-called gun safety bill by a 65-to-33 margin, with 15 Republicans opting to vote with Democrats on the measure.
Reportedly, the legislation will create stricter background checks for gun purchasers between ages 18 and 21. It will also require juvenile records, including mental health records beginning at age 16, to be evaluated for those purchases.
It also includes incentives for states to enact "red flag laws" and millions in funding for mental health programs and school security.
The House is set to vote on the $13 billion package Friday. Top House Republicans urged a “no” vote in an email from the No. 2 GOP leader, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana. He called the bill “an effort to slowly chip away at law-abiding citizens’ 2nd Amendment rights.”
Alabama's two members, U.S. Sens. Richard Shelby (R-Tuscaloosa) and Tommy Tuberville (R-Auburn), were not among the 15 Republicans who voted with the Democrats.
Late Thursday, Shelby issued a statement that questioned the constitutionality and the possible effectiveness of the bill.
"I firmly believe that this legislation raises serious Constitutional concerns and opens the door to the erosion of the Second Amendment to our Constitution," Shelby said. "The Second Amendment states that 'the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.' This does not leave room for question. It is evident that our Founding Fathers counted the right to keep and bear arms as a fundamental right of all law-abiding Americans. The Second Amendment is not a suggestion.
"As such, I do not believe that restrictive gun laws are the answer to curbing violent crime in America. Let's enforce the laws already on the books, combat the culture of violence in society, and address the underlying issues that may contribute to such heinous acts. We must also ensure that individuals who commit crimes with firearms are held accountable for their actions and receive swift and certain punishment commensurate with their crimes."
Shelby then shed light on where he believes the focus should be to address the issue.
"Congress should focus on solutions that truly tackle violent crime, address mental health, and ensure school safety without infringing on the constitutional freedoms of law-abiding gun owners," Shelby said. "This bill does not do that. For that reason, I intend to vote against the 'Bipartisan Safer Communities Act' and will continue to oppose efforts that infringe upon the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms."
Tuberville echoed Shelby's concerns and dismissed the school security component of the bill as inadequate.
"I have always been a proud supporter of our Second Amendment rights," Tuberville said in a statement. "As the Supreme Court rightly recognized this week, any attempts to interfere with law-abiding citizens' Second Amendment rights should be subject to a high level of scrutiny. I carefully considered this bill, and ultimately, I believe it fell short of ensuring protection of our Constitutional Second Amendment rights. While I appreciate that the bill includes provisions that focus on mental health, I have serious concerns over how states could implement red flag laws without appropriate due process protections, and I am disappointed with the lack of direct funding to safeguard our schools.
"I would have welcomed the opportunity to thoughtfully address these concerns, but we were given about an hour to review the bill before we were asked to take the first vote, and there was no amendment process to improve the bill once it was on the floor. For these reasons, I could not support this bill."
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email jeff.poor@1819News.com.
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