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U.S. Senate reaches agreement on gun control bill

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Bethany Blankley | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) – The U.S. Senate voted late Tuesday to advance a gun control bill with 14 Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, joining Democrats to approve the measure.

The vote was reached after weeks of negotiating a bipartisan bill in response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in which a gunman shot and killed 19 children and two teachers.

"Today, we finalized bipartisan, commonsense legislation to protect America’s children, keep our schools safe, and reduce the threat of violence across our country,” the leaders of the negotiations, Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.; John Cornyn, R-Texas; Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C. said in a joint statement.

“Our legislation will save lives and will not infringe on any law-abiding American’s Second Amendment rights. We look forward to earning broad, bipartisan support and passing our commonsense legislation into law.”

They also said that their bill “follows their previously released bipartisan proposal supported by Senate leaders from both parties and a bipartisan group of 20 Senators,” and released the full text of the bill.

The vote was 64-34, and the Senate moved to send the bill to the House for concurrence.

The bill is expected to be fast tracked for the Senate to vote on it before they recess for the Independence Day holiday.

Republicans who voted for the bill were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sens. Roy Blunt, Richard Burr, Shelley Moore Capito, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, John Cornyn, Joni Ernst, Lindsey Graham, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman, Mitt Romney, Thom Tillis, Todd Young, the Senate Press Gallery reported.

All Democrats voted for the bill; two Republican senators didn’t vote: Pat Toomey and Kevin Cramer.

The proposal would require an enhanced background check for gun buyers under age 21 and implement “a short pause to conduct the check. Young buyers can get the gun only after the enhanced check is completed,” Murphy explained when first announcing the agreement.

The "enhanced review process" would add a three-day review period during which buyers under age 21 would have any juvenile and mental health records reviewed prior to being able to purchase a firearm. The law doesn’t ban 18-year-olds from purchasing a firearm. The enhanced review period would expire after 10 years, according to the bill language.

The bill also provides clarification on who needs to register as a licensed gun dealer, to ensure “all truly commercial sellers are doing background checks,” Murphy also explained.

The joint announcement doesn’t mention “red flag laws.” Instead, it says their plan supports state crisis intervention orders. It “provides resources to states and tribes to create and administer laws that help ensure deadly weapons are kept out of the hands of individuals whom a court has determined to be a significant danger to themselves or others, consistent with state and federal due process and constitutional protections.”

But it closes the so-called “‘boyfriend loophole,’ so that no domestic abuser – a spouse or a serious dating partner – can buy a gun if they are convicted of abuse against their partner.”

This provision includes banning a misdemeanor domestic violence offender with a "current or recent former dating relationship with the victim" from purchasing or owning a firearm. A court would define a “dating relationship” and the ban would be removed after five years if the offender doesn’t commit any offenses.

The bill also proposes $750 million for mental health and school safety, and a national buildout of community mental health clinics.

It doesn’t include a ban on semiautomatic rifles or limit the number of bullets magazines can hold, proposals Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have called for.