Jun 13, 2022 - Politics & Policy

What the Senate's bipartisan gun deal would change

Demonstrators attend a March for Our Lives rally against gun violence on the National Mall
Demonstrators attend a March for Our Lives rally against gun violence on the National Mall on June 11. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

A bipartisan group of senators struck an agreement on gun safety over the weekend in what could be the most significant measure on the issue in decades if the legislation passes.

The big picture: The legislative text is still being written, but the agreement focuses on enhanced background checks for people under 21 and increased mental health funding.

  • Separately, President Biden laid out his gun control agenda this month after mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York.
  • He called for expansions on background checks, raising the age limits to purchase semi-automatic rifles and red-flag laws. He also urged Congress to reinstate the assault weapons ban, which expired under President George W. Bush in 2004 and isn't included in the Senate agreement.

What they're saying: "Our plan increases needed mental health resources, improves school safety and support for students, and helps ensure dangerous criminals and those who are adjudicated as mentally ill can’t purchase weapons," a bipartisan group of senators said in a statement.

Here's what would change under the gun safety deal if it is enacted.

Increased background checks for gun buyers
  • The proposal includes a more thorough background check process for gun buyers under 21, specifically requiring these individuals to complete an investigative period in which juvenile and mental health records are reviewed, per the senators' announcement.
  • The background check would also include checks with state databases and local law enforcement.
Red flag laws
  • The proposal would support states that implement red flag laws, which allow law enforcement to obtain a court order and temporarily seize guns from someone considered a danger to themselves or others.
  • The 19 states that already have red flag laws would be granted more funding to improve their programs, and states without such laws would receive funding to help create and administer new laws, CNN notes.
"Boyfriend loophole"
  • Convicted domestic violence abusers and individuals subject to domestic violence restraining orders will be included in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
  • Currently, only individuals in married or divorced couples convicted of domestic violence are blocked from owning or purchasing a gun.
Mental health support and school safety resources
  • The legislation would include "major investments" to increase access to mental health and suicide prevention programs, in addition to crisis and trauma intervention programs, the senators said.
  • It would also include investments to bolster school safety, including school violence prevention efforts and training for school personnel and students. There would also be more funding for mental health services in schools.
  • Finally, it would include investments to increase youth and families' access to telehealth mental health services.
"Federally licensed firearm dealer" and straw purchasing
  • The legislation seeks to clarify the definition of "federally licensed firearm dealer" and aims to "crack down on criminals who illegally evade licensing requirements," the senators said.
  • It also increases penalties for illegal straw purchases, in which a person buys a gun on behalf of someone else who is legally banned from having one.

What to watch: The future of the gun deal is still uncertain — and lawmakers must agree on a legislative text that keeps the 10 Senate Republicans who agreed to support the bill on board, Axios' Alayna Treene notes.

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