Senate poised to pass first major gun safety legislation in decades following bipartisan agreement

A group of senators released the text June 21 for a bipartisan gun safety bill, a key moment for the high stakes effort to pass legislation to counter gun violence in a highly polarized political climate.

By Clare Foran, Lauren Fox and Ali Zaslav, CNN

(CNN) -- The Senate on Tuesday made meaningful progress toward passing the first major federal gun safety legislation in a generation.

Procedurally, the legislation still has a number of hurdles to clear in the Senate -- it faces two more key votes to break a filibuster and then for final passage -- but it has the support of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Tuesday's vote attracted more than the minimum 10 Republican votes that will be necessary to overcome a filibuster. It could pass the Senate by week's end, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, and would then go onto the House.

If passed, it would amount to the most significant new federal legislation to address gun violence since the expired 10-year assault weapons ban of 1994 -- though it fails to ban any weapons and falls far short of what Democrats and polls show most Americans want to see.

"As the author of the Brady background checks bill, which passed in 1994, I'm pleased that for the first time in nearly 30 years, Congress is back on the path to take meaningful action to address gun violence," Schumer said Tuesday night.

The bill includes millions of dollars for mental health, school safety, crisis intervention programs and incentives for states to include juvenile records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check system.

It also makes significant changes to the process when someone ages 18 to 21 goes to buy a firearm and closes the so-called boyfriend loophole, a major victory for Democrats, who had fought for a decade for that.

Release of the bill's text came after days of lawmakers haggling over several sticking points, raising questions over whether the effort would fall apart. Lawmakers now have to race the clock before the Senate departs for the July Fourth recess in an attempt to get the bill passed out of the chamber.

Schumer praised the bipartisan negotiators Tuesday evening and said the bill represents "progress and will save lives."

"While it's not everything we want, this legislation is urgently needed," the New York Democrat added in remarks on the Senate floor.

The bill -- titled the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act -- was released by Republican Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

Along with McConnell, Tillis and Cornyn, the GOP senators who voted to advance the legislation on Tuesday, per the Senate Press Gallery, were: Joni Ernst of Iowa, Todd Young of Indiana, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Rob Portman of Ohio and Mitt Romney of Utah. McConnell, Ernst and Capito, who are in GOP leadership, as well as Murkowski and Young, were not part of the 10 Republicans who initially signed on to support the gun safety framework.

What's in the bill

Here is a breakdown of what is in the legislation:

  • $750 million to help states implement and run crisis intervention programs. The money can be used to implement and manage red flag programs and for other crisis intervention programs like mental health courts, drug courts and veteran courts. Whether this money could be used for things other than red flag laws had been a primary sticking point. Republicans were able to secure money for states that don't have red flag laws but do have other crisis intervention programs.
  • Closure of the so-called boyfriend loophole. This legislation closes a years-old loophole in domestic violence law that barred individuals who were convicted of domestic violence crimes against a married partners, or partners with whom they shared children or partners with whom they cohabitated from having guns. Old statutes didn't include intimate partners who may not live together, be married or share children. Now, the law will bar anyone who is convicted of a domestic violence crime against someone they have a "continuing serious relationship of a romantic or intimate nature" with from having a gun. The law isn't retroactive. It will, however, allow those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes to restore their gun rights after five years if they haven't committed other crimes. That's a key concession to Republicans.
  • Requires more gun sellers to register as Federally Licensed Firearm Dealers. The bill goes after individuals who sell guns as primary sources of income but have previously evaded registering as Federally Licensed Firearm Dealers. This is significant because federally licensed dealers are required to administer background checks before they sell a gun to someone.
  • More thorough reviews of people age 18-21 who want to buy guns. The bill both encourages states to include juvenile records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check system with grants as well as implements a new protocol for checking those records. It gives NICS three days to review an individual's record. If something potentially disqualifying comes up, NICS gets an additional seven days. If the review is not completed by then, the gun transfer goes through.
  • Creates new federal statutes against gun trafficking and straw trafficking. Makes it easier to go after those who are buying guns for individuals who are not allowed to purchase weapons on their own.
  • Increases funding for mental health programs and school security. This money is directed to a series of programs, many of which already exist but would be funded more robustly under this law.

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Tuesday.

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