June 26th, 2022
By Alex Gault
WASHINGTON — The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the first significant gun safety legislation to garner bipartisan support from Congress in a generation has been signed into law by President Joseph R. Biden.
The legislation, which President Biden signed Saturday, was announced by a bipartisan group of senators earlier this month and quickly moved through the House and Senate. Under the new laws, under-21 gun purchasers will be subject to enhanced background checks before they can complete their transaction, a loophole that left domestic abusers out of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System if they weren’t married to their victims is closed, and it is now a federal crime to traffick guns across state lines.
The expanded background check requirements for people younger than 21 will last only 10 years, with the option for a future Congress to extend it.
The new law calls for billions of dollars of federal spending to be dedicated to creating and supporting violence-prevention programs, mental health clinics, a 988 national suicide hotline, and school safety programs.
The law also bans the use of most federal school funding to train or equip school staff with weapons.
The legislation has been lauded by Democrats and its Republican supporters as targeted, specific action that will help cut down on instances of gun violence and mass shootings.
Prompted by the Buffalo supermarket shooting and the Uvalde, Texas, elementary school shooting, which came within weeks of each other and left the nation reeling, this is the first piece of gun legislation in nearly 30 years to garner significant support from Republican senators. Fifteen GOP senators voted for the bill alongside all of the Senate’s Democrats. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., supported the bill, while House Republican leadership roundly rejected it.
In the House, the vote followed party lines more closely, with 14 of the chamber’s 208-voting Republicans supporting it. Rep. Chris L. Jacobs, R- Orchard Park, who represents part of the Buffalo community affected by the Tops supermarket shooting, was the only New York Republican to support the bill. Rep. Jacobs, who for a short time was seeking elected office in the congressional district covering Watertown and western Jefferson County, has since announced he won’t seek office again. He was roundly criticized by Republicans, at the state and national levels, for expressing support for gun safety legislation in the days following the Uvalde shooting.
Rep. Claudia L. Tenney, R-Utica, now the incumbent congresswoman seeking office in the 24th District — which includes Watertown and western Jefferson County — voted against the measure. In a statement, she said the bill was a governmental overreach that would still not make meaningful change.
“It will restrict the freedoms of law-abiding Americans while handing more power to the federal government and unelected bureaucrats,” she said in a statement.
She criticized the bill’s support of red-flag laws, which she said could give the government the power to confiscate weapons without “sufficient due process protections.”
She also criticized the background checks for under-21 gun purchasers. The background checks are mandated to take three days unless potentially disqualifying information is found. In those cases, the check can take an additional 10 days.
The congresswoman said this waiting period is unacceptable.
“It requires young Americans to wait significantly longer to legally purchase a firearm, effectively creating a second class of citizens who can vote and join the military but face new restrictions when legally purchasing a firearm,” Rep. Tenney said.
Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, joined with the rest of the Republican House leadership in voting against the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. She said red-flag laws are unconstitutional, criticized the background checks for young gun buyers, and said it makes all gun owners “second-class citizens.” Ahead of the vote, she called the bill a “blatant government overreach.”
She lauded the recent Supreme Court decision invalidating a 130-year-old New York law that restricted who can carry a gun in public, and said this is another example of unconstitutional gun legislation.
“In the face of any attempt to shred our Constitution, I will continue to stand up for Second Amendment rights and push for solutions to address the crime crisis in our country,” she said.
Much of the funding associated with the law will become immediately available, and under-21 gun purchasers will be held to the new background check standards immediately.
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