The Senate vote on the final passage was 65-33. A group of House Democrats who watched the vote from the back of the chamber included Democrat Lucy McBath, whose 17-year-old son was shot dead in 2012 by a man complaining his music was too loud.
On roll call hours earlier, senators had voted 65 to 34 to end the filibuster by conservative Republican senators. That was five more than the 60-vote threshold required. The House was scheduled to vote on the measure on Friday and approval seemed certain.
In both votes, 15 Senate Republicans joined 50 Democrats, including their two allied independents, in supporting the legislation.
Still, the votes highlighted the risks Republicans face in challenging the party’s pro-gun voters and gun groups like the National Rifle Association. Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Todd Young of Indiana were the only two of 15 to be reelected this fall. Of the rest, four are retiring and eight won’t face voters until 2026.
Tellingly, Republican senators voting “no” included potential 2024 presidential candidates such as Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri and Tim Scott of South Carolina. Some of the party’s more conservative members also voted “no,” including Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah.
While the Senate measure was a clear breakthrough, the prospects for continued Congressional movement on gun curbs are bleak.
Less than a third of the Senate’s 50 Republican senators backed the measure, and a strong Republican opposition is certain in the House. Leading House Republicans urged a ‘no’ vote in an email from No. 2 Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who called the bill ‘an effort to slowly curtail the 2nd Amendment rights of respectful citizens laws”.
Both chambers – now tightly controlled by Democrats – may well be led by Republicans after November’s midterm elections.
In a statement, President Joe Biden said residents of Uvalde told him during his visit that Washington needed to act. “Our children in schools and our communities will be safer thanks to this legislation. I call on Congress to finish the job and bring this bill to my desk,” Biden said.
The Senate action came a month after a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde. Days earlier, a white man was accused of being racially motivated when he killed 10 black grocers in Buffalo. Both shooters were 18, a youthful profile shared by many mass shooters, and the close timing of the two massacres and the victims many could identify with sparked a demand for action from voters, it said. lawmakers from both parties.
The talks were led by Democratic Senators Chris Murphy and Kyrsten Sinema, and Republicans John Cornyn and Thom Tillis. Murphy represented Newtown, Connecticut, when an attacker killed 20 students and six staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, while Cornyn was embroiled in gun talks following shootings by mass in his state and is close to McConnell.
Murphy said the measure would save thousands of lives and was a chance to “prove to a weary American public that democracy isn’t so broken that it can’t rise to the moment.”
“I don’t believe in doing anything about what we saw in Uvalde” and elsewhere, Cornyn said.
The bill would make local juvenile records of people between the ages of 18 and 20 available during required federal background checks when attempting to purchase firearms. These reviews, currently limited to three days, would last up to a maximum of 10 days to give federal and local authorities time to search for records.
People convicted of domestic violence who are current or former romantic partners of the victim would be prohibited from acquiring firearms, thus closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole”.
This ban currently only applies to people who are married to, living with, or have had children with the victim. The compromise bill would extend this to those deemed to have had “a continuing serious relationship”.
There would be money to help states enforce red flag laws and for other states without them than for violence prevention programs. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have such laws.
The measure expands the use of background checks by rewriting the definition of federally licensed arms dealers needed to perform them. Penalties for gun trafficking are increased, billions of dollars are being allocated to behavioral health clinics and school mental health programs and there is money for safe schools initiatives, but not for staff to use a “dangerous weapon”.