Congress Passes Modest Gun Reform Bill After SCOTUS Hands Down Anti-Regulation Opinion

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 07: Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) speaks at the opening of the Giffords Gun Violence Memorial (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

The House passed a bill aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people Friday, a day after the Senate did so in a break from the usual Republican obstruction of even the mildest gun reform measures.

House passage also came a day after the Supreme Court knocked down a century-old New York concealed carry licensing law, dramatically toughening the standard by which the justices would consider gun regulation constitutional.

The gun reform package was both modest and the only such package to make it through Congress in years. It garnered significant Republican support in the Senate, passing by 65 yes votes to 33 nos (two senators were absent). Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) voted for the legislation, though he was candid in his reason for doing so. 

“It’s no secret that we’ve lost ground in suburban areas. We pretty much own rural and small-town America, and I think this is a sensible solution to the problem before us, which is school safety and mental health,” he told reporters Thursday night. “I hope it will be viewed favorably by voters in the suburbs we need to regain to be in the majority next year.”

The vote in the House was 234-193. Fourteen Republicans voted in favor. The vote was delayed hours amid speeches by lawmakers noting another, historic, and even-further reaching Supreme Court decision that came down Friday, overturning Roe v. Wade.

The bill beefs up background checks for young gun buyers, increases penalties for third-party gun sellers, expands a ban on domestic abusers purchasing guns and funnels millions into mental health programs and school security. 

While a significant breakthrough from the usual GOP stonewalling, the bill falls well short of what Democrats wanted, including a ban on the sale of semiautomatic weapons to those under 21 years old and on high-capacity magazines. 

Contention over a provision that would include boyfriends and dating partners in the domestic abuse ban almost made the whole deal fall apart, and even those convicted for the abuse would get to purchase guns again after five years if they’re first-time offenders and are not convicted of another misdemeanor. 

Democrats have been candid that the bill is far from perfect — but maintain that it’s worth doing, especially after the particularly horrific mass shooting last month at a Texas elementary school. 

“We’re gonna save lives, thousands of lives,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), one of the lead negotiators — who became a gun control activist after the Sandy Hook shooting, which was in his then-House district — said in a Twitter video early Friday morning. “This package isn’t everything, this bill isn’t everything that I want, but we should be proud of it.”   

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