Who ever said miracles didn’t happen in the modern age? One seems to be slouching toward Congress after 14 senators joined Senate Democrats to move a gun control bill forward after a massacre of innocents in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24. The bill includes Congressmember Salud Carbajal’s red flag provisions to help create gun restraining orders among the states, a law he has pursued since first gaining office in 2017. The 64-34 vote on Tuesday means the newly negotiated bill — titled the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act — could overcome the 60-vote filibuster threshold, potentially the first successful federal firearms legislation since the Assault Weapons Ban passed in 1994 and then lapsed in 2004.
“This is a historic moment — one that is long overdue, but reason for celebration all the same — because, make no mistake, this measure will save lives,” Carbajal said on Wednesday. “There is still work to be done, but I am confident that it will not be another 30 years before Congress builds on this progress by passing additional measures that will curb gun deaths and better protect our communities.”
The red flag provisions create a $750 million grant fund to encourage states to write laws that allow gun violence restraining orders. California enacted such laws in 2016, which allow family, household, workplace, school, and law enforcement members to ask the courts to approve the removal of firearms from a person who is a significant danger to themselves or others. The process allows the individual restrained to argue their case, and the order is in place for one year in most cases.
Negotiated over the three-day weekend by several senators, including Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy and Texas Republican John Cornyn, the bill adds 10 days for background checks of juvenile and mental health records for persons under the age of 21. Preceding the vote were massacres in Uvalde and Buffalo, in which 31 people fell victim to young men who’d purchased AR-15-type assault weapons after turning 18. Increased funding for mental health services for children and families, including support after traumatic events, and schools are among several provisions of the bill released on Tuesday.
Negotiations continue on the Hill after the procedural vote, and the National Rifle Association has put its finger on the “opposed” side of the scale. If the bill survives the Senate, Carbajal’s office indicated it might be in the House for a vote later this week.