A bipartisan gun control bill advanced through the U.S. Senate Tuesday night without support from either of Tennessee's senators.
Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty both voted against advancing the "Bipartisan Safer Communities Act" that features some proposed solutions to gun violence, including incentives for states to pass "red flag" laws, the closing of the long-controversial "boyfriend loophole" that allows some domestic abusers to purchase firearms and strengthened background checks for those under the age of 21 purchasing firearms.
Bipartisan group finds common ground to address gun violence
The legislation comes after the United States has been rocked by a series of mass shootings, including one at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and one at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York.
Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT), John Cornyn (R-TX), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) led the efforts to hammer out details for the bill, which does not restrict the sale of assault weapons but does represent the most significant piece of gun control legislation to find success in the Senate in decades.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was one of 13 Republicans who supported the bill, joining Cornyn, Tillis, Mitt Romney (R-UT), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Richard Burr (R-NC), Rob Portman (R-PA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Todd Young (R-IN), Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA).
"I support the bill text that Sen. Cornyn and our colleagues have produced," McConnell said in a statement. "Our colleagues have put together a common-sense package of popular steps that will help make these horrifying incidents less likely while fully upholding the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”
The bill, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), is expected to pass through the Senate later this week and should garner enough support in the Democrat-controlled House to reach President Joe Biden's desk and become law.
"This bill is going to save thousands of lives," Murphy said when announcing the multi-step gun control legislation that was introduced and quickly affirmed Tuesday.
The key factors in the bill are as follows, per Sen. Murphy:
- Federal funding for states to implement "red flag" laws and other crisis intervention services. "These laws allow courts to temporarily take guns away from people who are threatening to kill themselves or others," Murphy explained.
- The closing of the "boyfriend loophole," which restricts those who assault their girlfriend or ex-girlfriend to buy or own a gun. "You can get your rights back, but years later, only for one-time, non-repeat offenders," Murphy said.
- Enhanced background checks for those under 21 attempting to purchase a firearm, which includes getting the police involved to make sure the person purchasing the gun is not in crisis. "This enhanced check can take from 3-10 days, providing for a critical 'cooling off' period for young people in crisis," Murphy said.
- "The bill clarifies who needs to register as a federal firearms dealer, to make sure that every true commercial gun seller is conducting background checks," Murphy elaborated on amendments to the background check system. "This provision could get thousands of additional guns sales into the background check system."
- An $11 billion investment into mental health. "The most important thing we do it build out a new, nationwide system of mental health clinics, targeting the most underserved areas of the nation," Murphy said. "This is a huge deal.
"Other mental health investments include help for pediatricians to do telehealth consults with mental health professionals, money for more school based mental health centers, support for suicide hotlines and mental health first aid programs."
- A $2 billion investment in community safety "by funding community anti-violence programs in our cities, and school safety initiatives, by increasing funds for the existing bipartisan STOP School Violence program," Murphy shared.
- The first-ever "comprehensive" federal criminal statute banning gun trafficking and the straw purchasing of firearms. "This allows law enforcement to put a stop to the flow of illegal guns into our cities," Murphy added.
While the bill should help curb some of America's issues with gun violence, some experts say a tighter reinforcement of existing practices and procedures is needed to help make sure any new regulations have greater effects.
Blackburn, Hagerty among Republicans to vote 'no'
Though the bill had bipartisan support and should become law barring an unexpected snag in the House, a considerable number of Republicans joined the National Rifle Association in opposing the bill.
Blackburn said she didn't like that the bill was delivered so close to an advancement vote, though the framework has been in negotiations for some time.
"Tonight, I opposed the gun control legislation — released only an hour before the vote — that would infringe on law-abiding Americans’ Second Amendment rights," Blackburn said in a statement.
Though Hagerty did not release a specific statement after the vote was carried out, he did say that the Biden administration should focus on safety, calling out the administration's handling of immigration.
"The Biden Administration needs to prioritize American safety," Hagerty said ahead of the vote. "They cannot say they have our best interests in mind and continue to ignore our southern border."