The Senate approved a bipartisan gun violence bill Thursday, clearing the way for expected House passage Friday of what will be Congress’ most far-reaching response in decades to the nation’s run of brutal mass shootings.
Republicans have long derailed Democratic efforts to curb firearms. But after last month's mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, Democrats and some Republicans decided that congressional inaction was untenable.
It took nearly a month of closed-door talks but a group of senators from both parties emerged with a compromise embodying incremental but impactful movement.
Highlights of the bipartisan gun violence bill the Senate approved Thursday and the House is expected to pass Friday:
Expanded background checks:
State and local juvenile and mental health records of gun purchasers will be part of federal background checks for buyers age 18 to 20. Three-day maximum for gathering records lengthened to up to 10 days to search juvenile data. If 10 days lapse without resolution, sale goes through.
Closing the "boyfriend loophole”
Convicted domestic violence offenders denied guns if they have current or past “continuing serious relationship of a romantic or intimate nature” with victim. Abusers' right to buy firearms restored after five years if no additional violent crimes committed. Firearms currently denied to domestic abusers if they are married, live with or had a child with victim.
“Red flag” laws
Federal aid to the 19 states, plus the District of Columbia, that have laws helping authorities get court orders to temporarily remove guns from people deemed dangerous. Those states would need strong processes for challenging the taking of firearms. Other states could use money for crisis intervention programs.
Funds mental health services and crisis intervention programs
Expands community behavioral health clinics. Helps states bolster mental health programs in schools, provide more mental health consultations remotely.
Increases spending on school mental health, crisis intervention, violence prevention programs, mental health worker training and school safety.
Requires more gun dealers to be federally licensed
Current law requires people “engaged in the business" of selling guns to be licensed, which means they must conduct background checks. Bill defines that as selling firearms ‘‘to predominantly earn a profit" in an effort to prosecute people who evade the requirement.
Higher penalties for gun traffickers and "straw purchasers"
Creates federal crimes for gun traffickers and “straw purchasers" who buy guns for people who would not pass background checks. Penalties up to 25 years in prison. Such offenders are now primarily prosecuted for paperwork violations.
What's the cost?
Nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates $13 billion, mostly for mental health and schools. That is more than paid for by further delaying a 2020 regulation that's never taken effect requiring drug manufacturers to give rebates to Medicare recipients. That regulation would increase federal Medicare costs.