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Congress passes bipartisan gun legislation, sending bill to Biden

Congress passes first gun reform bill in decades
Congress passes first gun reform bill in decades 00:24

The House on Friday approved bipartisan gun legislation that was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate late the night before, sending it to President Biden for his signature. It marks the most significant update to the nation's gun laws in nearly three decades.

The bill, called The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, passed the lower chamber by a vote of 234-193, with 14 Republicans joining all the Democrats.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi read the vote tally after it concluded to applause from the members of Congress on the floor.

The bill enhances background checks for gun buyers under 21 years of age, provides billions of dollars for mental health services and to harden schools, and closes the so-called "boyfriend loophole" to prevent convicted domestic abusers from purchasing a firearm for five years. The plan also provides $750 million in grants to incentivize states to implement crisis intervention programs, clarifies the definition of a Federally Licensed Firearms Dealer and creates criminal penalties for straw purchases and gun trafficking.

Congress Guns
From left, Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., and Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., listen as they attend an event on the steps of the U.S. Capitol about gun violence Friday, June 24, 2022. J. Scott Applewhite / AP

The president has indicated he will sign the bill swiftly. 

The legislation's passage by both chambers ends almost 30 years of inaction by Congress, which has been unable to find common ground on changes to federal firearms laws even amid a rise in gun violence and mass shootings across the nation. 

But after shootings in in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, that left a combined 31 people dead, a bipartisan group of senators — led by Democrat Chris Murphy of Connecticut and John Cornyn of Texas — were spurred to find consensus on tighter gun laws again, resulting in the plan that now heads to Mr. Biden's desk. 

The Senate passed the bill 65-33 late Thursday night, with 15 Republicans voting for the measure. Republican Senator Tom Cotton did not vote, and neither did Republican Senator Kevin Cramer, who is in North Dakota recovering from a serious hand injury. All of the Democratic senators voted for the bill. 

The House began procedural votes on the bill Friday morning and passed it hours later, just before lawmakers are expected to depart Washington for a two-week recess. Democrats broadly supported the plan, but House Republican leaders encouraged their GOP members to oppose the legislation, arguing it was part of an effort to erode law-abiding Americans' Second Amendment rights.

Still, the plan garnered support from a small coalition of Republicans, including Rep. Tony Gonzales, who represents Uvalde, where a gunman last month killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school. 

Soon after the massacre in Texas, bipartisan Senate negotiators began talks to hammer out a deal in response to the latest spate of mass shootings. They released a framework of the proposal earlier this month, and unveiled the legislation Tuesday.

The Senate's plan is more narrow than a package of bills that passed the House last month, which, among other reforms, would raise the minimum age to purchase a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21 years old and ban large-capacity magazines. That legislation, though, would not have garnered support from enough Republicans to advance in the Senate.

While the bill also stops short of what Mr. Biden has urged Congress to do, he supports the legislation and on Thursday called on the House to act quickly.

"Tonight, after 28 years of inaction, bipartisan members of Congress came together to heed the call of families across the country and passed legislation to address the scourge of gun violence in our communities," Mr. Biden said upon Senate passage of the legislation Thursday. "Families in Uvalde and Buffalo — and too many tragic shootings before — have demanded action. And tonight, we acted. This bipartisan legislation will help protect Americans. Kids in schools and communities will be safer because of it. The House of Representatives should promptly vote on this bipartisan bill and send it to my desk."

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