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The New Gun Safety Bill Has Advanced Through the Senate

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate advanced a new hotly anticipated gun safety bill in a 64-34 vote, with 14 Republicans joining all 50 Democrats in voting yes. The bipartisan bill could see its final floor vote as soon as this week. If it is signed into law, it will be the first major move forward on gun safety legislation in nearly 30 years, and its first concrete response to the U.S. epidemic of mass shootings.

”Our legislation will save lives and will not infringe on any law-abiding American’s Second Amendment rights,” a bipartisan team of the bill’s lead senators said in a statement. “We look forward to earning broad, bipartisan support and passing our commonsense legislation into law.”

The package falls far short of the Democratic Party’s dreams of sweeping reform but represents a major step forward on one of America’s most hotly contested political issues. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed to move forward as quickly as possible on the bill and, in a rare moment of political unity, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed, calling the proposals a “commonsense package of popular steps.”

“This bill is not going to please everyone,” said Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas. “But I believe the … same people who are telling us to do something are sending us a clear message: to do what we can to keep our children and communities safe.”

Among the package’s reforms are a closing of what’s known as “the boyfriend loophole.” If passed, a person who assaults a dating partner or a former dating partner can be charged with domestic violence and be unable to purchase a firearm. Their right to a gun would be reinstated in five years if they are not involved in any further violent acts or felonies.

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The package will also provide funding for states to implement so-called “red flag laws” and similar programs, and increases the amount of scrutiny for gun buyers under the age of 21. It also includes increased funding for things like school security and mental health programs. So far, five Republican Senators have indicated they may be willing to join the original 10 endorsers to back the bill on the floor. If those numbers hold, the package can avoid a filibuster and make it to President Joe Biden’s desk.

Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association has condemned the package, saying it “falls short at every level” and “does little to truly address violent crime while opening the door to unnecessary burdens on the exercise of Second Amendment freedom by law-abiding gun owners.”

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