A Sliver of Hope on Gun Reform? Here’s What’s in the Bipartisan Gun Bill.

People attend a protest near Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 8, 2022, sponsored by Everytown for Gun Safety and its grassroots networks, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, as gun violence survivors and hundreds of gun safety supporters demand that Congress act on gun safety issues. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

By Jeremy Borden

June 15, 2022

Gun reform has a long way to go before it’s passed. But 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans, including NC’s Burr and Tillis, are working on it behind the scenes.

In the wake of the most recent shooting massacres in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, Americans around the country of all political stripes have largely agreed with President Biden’s repeated calls for Congress to “do something” about gun violence.

Studies have repeatedly shown that gun violence in our country is by far the highest in the western world and is directly linked to easy access to firearms. In 2020, firearm death rates were higher in North Carolina than in Colorado and Texas, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

While there is a long way to go and new legislation hasn’t been filed yet, a group of 10 Democrats and 10 Republican U.S. senators — including North Carolina’s Republican senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis — have released the terms of a potential compromise on the issue. 

Burr and Tillis’ involvement is noteworthy given both lawmakers have received millions in contributions from gun reform opponents such as the NRA. 

Ten Republicans is something of a magic number in the U.S. Senate because of the Senate’s filibuster rules. Anything short of 60 votes does not get debated and there are 50 Democrats currently.

First, here’s what isn’t in the group’s deal: a ban on large capacity magazines, raising the age to buy assault weapons to 21 or a complete ban on assault weapons.

Many believe those changes could go a long way in preventing the next tragedy.

So what’s in the announced deal and why does it matter? We’ll break it down with help from the gun policy outlet The Trace.

The proposal includes:

  1. Support for State Crisis Intervention Orders. These are so-called “red flag” laws that allow courts to issue orders that prevent someone from obtaining a weapon, often called for in domestic violence situations. The proposal indicates that federal money and resources would be available to states to create such laws, rather than a separate federal law.  
  2. Investment in Children and Family Mental Health Services. Senators have indicated they would support increased funding for school and community-based mental health services. 
  3. Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence. The Trace calls this closing the “boyfriend loophole,” explaining:

Current federal law allows people convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse to pass background checks and keep their guns if their victim is not a current or former spouse, child, co-parent, or cohabiting partner. The proposal would extend prohibitions on possessing a gun to romantic partners who’ve been convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse and those subject to domestic violence restraining orders.

  1. Funding for School-Based Mental Health and Supportive Services. Expand mental health and other services, purportedly to identify and help more students who might be planning violent action. 
  2. Funding for School Safety Resources. Dollars for training and safety measures around schools.  
  3. Clarification of Definition of Federally Licensed Firearms Dealer. The Trace explains:

Right now, anyone “engaged in the business of dealing in firearms” must obtain a Federal Firearms License, but that term’s exact meaning has never been clearly defined. There is no threshold of gun sales after which a dealer must register as an FFL.

The ambiguity has allowed many sellers to avoid registering, even though they routinely sell at places like gun shows. Sales by private, unregistered dealers are largely unregulated. Because FFLs must run background checks on all gun sales, this provision could subject many more gun purchases to the checks.

  1. Telehealth Investments. Dollars for mental health services via the video and the web.
  2. Under 21 Enhanced Review Process. Juvenile mental health records could be reviewed before allowing someone under 21 to buy a gun for the first time. 
  3. Penalties for Straw Purchasing. New penalties would be imposed for “straw” purchases of a gun, which is when a buyer purchases a weapon to provide it to someone who cannot legally own a weapon. For example: That includes someone with a felony conviction in most states, including North Carolina.

In the coming weeks, Democrats will decide whether these proposals make a difference and are worth backing as they are finalized; many have indicated they are hopeful.

Another question: As Republicans formalize a deal, will any get skittish about taking on the issue of gun reform? 


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