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House clears bipartisan gun violence reduction measure

Measure gives Biden a victory ahead of his trip to Europe

Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised the bipartisan Senate agreement.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised the bipartisan Senate agreement. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House cleared bipartisan gun violence reduction legislation on Friday, delivering President Joe Biden a legislative victory ahead of his departure for Europe.

The 234-193 final passage vote came as the bipartisan success was overshadowed by the Supreme Court’s opinion overturning the abortion rights protections in Roe v. Wade. All House Democrats supported the bill along with 14 Republicans.

“This package represents the most significant action to prevent gun violence in nearly three decades and is a necessary step to honor our solemn duty as lawmakers to protect and defend the American people,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on the House floor ahead of the vote. “Importantly, the bipartisan Safer Communities Act has earned strong support from gun owners, gun survivors and law enforcement alike.”

The measure includes mental health, school security and gun control provisions. It garnered broader Republican support when it passed the Senate 65-33, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., headlining the list of 15 GOP votes in support of the final vote on the motion to concur.

The Senate passed the legislation Thursday night before leaving Washington for the July Fourth recess.

While some Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the bipartisan gun legislation, they could not be more divided on the ruling the Supreme Court issued Thursday that threw out New York state’s longstanding limits on carrying handguns outside the home.

For GOP senators like McConnell, however, the combination of the two firearm policy events this week was a positive.

“There are no new bans, mandates, or waiting periods for law-abiding citizens of any age. What the bill does contain are commonsense solutions that are overwhelmingly popular with lawful gun owners, such as adding juvenile criminal records and mental health issues into the background check system,” McConnell said in a statement Thursday night. “It also provides significant new funding for mental health in schools.”

Among other provisions, the bill that will now head to Biden’s desk would establish new penalties for “straw purchases” of firearms and seek to make clear the people who regularly sell guns for a profit need to run background checks.

Many in his own party disagreed with McConnell on the bill’s impact, however, especially in the House, where leaders whipped members to vote against it.

Leading the opposition on the House floor was Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee. He said the bill would take away Second Amendment rights of “law-abiding American citizens.”

Incentives for states

The legislation would provide new funding for states to set up crisis intervention court systems and ramp up mental health funding. There’s also funding that could incentivize more states to enact “red flag” laws, allowing legal action to bar certain people who are determined to pose a risk to themselves or others from purchasing or possessing firearms.

The bill came together after bipartisan negotiations led by Democratic Sens. Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Republican Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.

The four came together, with the support of Senate leadership, in the aftermath of mass shootings both in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas. They released a framework June 12 with the support of 20 senators — 10 from each caucus — and eventually legislative text.

House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., noted that the bill also would close the “boyfriend loophole” to prohibit perpetrators of domestic violence from having firearms and make background checks more stringent for would-be purchasers under 21 years of age.

Both of North Carolina’s Republican senators supported the bill, but Rep. Richard Hudson, a fellow North Carolina Republican, was among the members to speak in opposition ahead of Friday’s vote. Among the provisions he cited was the provision about the boyfriend loophole.

“I think most of us can agree, someone convicted of beating up their spouse ought to be put on to the background check system. The law extends this to misdemeanor assault on a spouse or someone with whom you share a child,” Hudson said. “But we have to be careful when we are talking about taking away a constitutionally protected right over other misdemeanors.”

While speaking in support of the measure on the House floor Friday, Nadler and other Democrats emphasized that they hope there would be further action on gun violence-related legislation.

“This cannot be the last step, but we also cannot let another day go by without taking action to make our communities safer and to keep even one more family whole,” Nadler said on the House floor.

Megan Mineiro contributed to this report.

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