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Senate Moves Step Closer to Passing Bipartisan Gun Safety Bill

WASHINGTON — The Senate moved one step closer on Wednesday to passing a bipartisan bill aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people, when a small group of Republicans joined Democrats to break their party’s blockade and force the first substantial arms security. measure in decades at the edge of passage.

Fifteen Republicans, including Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, joined Democrats in a pivotal test vote that cleared the way for the Senate to pass the measure as early as Thursday. The 65-34 votes well passed the 60-vote threshold needed to break a Republican filibuster, shattering a three-decade series of failures on gun-related legislation. A Republican senator was absent.

Majority leader New York Senator Chuck Schumer said he plans to put the bill to a vote on its final passage by the end of the day, though the timing could change.

California Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the House would act quickly to purge it once the Senate springs into action. White House officials said President Biden would sign the measureand called it “one of the most important steps Congress has taken to reduce gun violence in decades.”

“This is not a panacea for all the ways gun violence affects our nation, but it is a step in the right direction that should have happened a long time ago,” said Mr. Schumer. “It’s important — it’s going to save lives.”

The compromise, the result of an intense round of talks between a small group of Democrats and Republicans, leaves out many of the sweeping gun control measures that Democrats and activists have long demanded. The negotiations unfolded after a couple of consecutive mass shootings — one at a grocery store in Buffalo and another at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas — sparked a nationwide call for action and urged senators in both sides to find at least common ground after decades of stalemate.

The result is the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which would improve background checks for potential gun buyers under the age of 21, extend the period from three to 10 days, and allow law enforcement officers to review youth and mental health records for the first time. to investigate .

It would also set aside $750 million in federal grant funding to help states implement so-called red flag laws, which allow authorities to temporarily seize weapons if a court declares a person a danger to themselves or others, and for other intervention programs, including mental health courts.

And for the first time, it would include serious current or recent dating partners in a federal law prohibiting domestic violence from buying a firearm, known as the boyfriend loophole.

In addition, the measure would tighten criminal penalties for buying straw – buying and giving weapons to people who are not allowed to own a weapon – and trafficking weapons.

As they struggled to keep Republicans on board, Democrats dropped their gun control proposals, including a House passed measure that would ban the sale of semiautomatic rifles to those under 21, a ban on the sale of magazines containing high capacity and a federal red flag law. They also agreed that the extensive background checks for younger buyers would expire in ten years, just as the assault weapons ban did in 2004, forcing future congresses to renegotiate their renewal.

Still, the National Rifle Association vehemently opposed the bill, saying in a statement that it “does little to truly tackle violent crime while opening the door to undue burdens of the exercise of Second Amendment freedom by law-abiding gun owners.” .”

The legislation earmarks millions of dollars, largely in grants, to address mental health in schools and communities, including earmarking $150 million for the national suicide hotline. It also gives money to increase safety at school.

Republican proponents, facing significant backlash from gun rights groups and a majority of their colleagues, have carefully emphasized their success in limiting the bill’s scope, including distributing a National Sheriffs’ Association endorsement.

“Sheriffs are seeing up close the daily slaying of gun violence perpetrated by criminals and individuals with mental illness,” the group wrote in a letter. “We appreciate the authors coming together on a bill that could actually save lives, written in a way that allows states to formulate their own unique answers to the questions raised by gun violence.”

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