The Senate on Thursday night passed gun control legislation, clearing the way for final congressional approval of what will be the most significant firearms legislation in decades.
The 65-33 vote came after a month of negotiations that eventually found a compromise on one of the country’s most contentious political issues.
Yet the nation’s divisions were on clear display on a day when the Supreme Court expanded gun rights by ruling Americans have a constitutional right to carry handguns in public for self-defense.
The legislation provides about $15 billion in funding to help states implement red-flag laws to keep guns from high-risk owners and expand background checks.
The Democratic-led House is expected to take up the bill in quick succession, and President Joe Biden has made clear that he will sign the bill as soon as possible.
It passed after 15 Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, ignored former President Donald Trump’s demand that they vote against it.
After the vote, McConnell said the measures would have no impact on Americans’ Second Amendment rights.
‘Bipartisan talks had started up after horrifying mass murder incidents in the past, but collapsed when Senate Democrats insisted on attacking the Second Amendment,’ he said.
‘This time was different because Democrats finally moved our way and accepted the reality that Americans do not have to choose between their constitutional rights and safer communities. They can have both.’
Some of his colleagues disagreed.
Senator Roger Marshall said: ‘Kansans expect me to protect their Constitutional freedoms in the U.S. Senate, and I will not sacrifice those freedoms for this gun grabbing scheme.’
The Senate voted 65 to 34 to end a Republican-led filibuster on the gun reform package, clearing another important hurdle, with final Senate passage coming as early as later Thursday
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voted in favor of breaking the filibuster on the bipartisan gun control package Thursday afternoon
Earlier the Senate voted 65 to 34 to end a Republican-led filibuster on the gun reform package, clearing the way to the final vote.
Biden said Monday he was ready to sign the gun bill, but he’s flying to Germany and then onto Spain Saturday morning for G7 and NATO meetings, so it’s unclear if he’ll have time to sign the legislation before he departs.
The vote comes after an initial 64-34 procedural vote taken in the Senate Tuesday night, with 14 Republicans joining all 50 Democrats in voting in the affirmative.
Sen. Kevin Cramer, a North Dakota Republican, wasn’t present for the vote due to suffering a ‘severe’ hand injury after trying to remove a boulder in his yard.
Among those voting for the bill was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
McConnell said it was a ‘commonsense package of popular steps that will help make these horrifying incidents less likely while fully upholding the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.’
Republican Texas Sen. John Cornyn was one of the chief negotiators, as there were fresh calls for stricter gun control laws in the aftermath of the Uvalde, Texas elementary school shooting.
The same group of Republicans voted in favor of breaking the filibuster Thursday, with the addition of Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, who wasn’t on hand for the first vote.
Other Republicans who voted yea include Sens. Roy Blunt, Richard Burr, Shelley Moore Capito, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Joni Ernst, Lindsey Graham, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman, Mitt Romney, Thom Tillis and Todd Young.
The 80-page compromise legislation would toughen background checks for younger gun buyers, bolster background check requirements and beef up penalties for gun traffickers.
The bill would also prohibit romantic partners convicted of domestic abuse who are not married to their victims from getting firearms.
Convicted abusers who are married to, live with or had children with their victims are already barred from having guns.
Additionally, $750million would be provided to the 19 states that have ‘red flag’ laws making it easier to temporarily take firearms from people adjudged dangerous, and to other states with violence prevention programs.
States with ‘red flag’ laws that receive the funds would have to have legal processes for the gun owner to fight the firearm’s removal.
The bill would disburse money to states and communities to improve school safety and mental health initiatives.
While the majority of senators want are pushing for swift final passage, Republican Sen. Rand Paul told Punchbowl News he’d put forward seven amendments to draw out the process.
On Wednesday, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives encouraged colleagues to vote against it.
‘This legislation takes the wrong approach in attempting to curb violent crimes. House Republicans are committed to identifying and solving the root causes of violent crimes, but doing so must not infringe upon’ Second Amendment rights,’ House Minority Whip Steve Scalise said in a notice telling House GOP members to vote against the legislation.
Still, some moderate House Republicans are expected to vote in favor of the bill.
In a statement Tuesday, the National Rifle Association came out against the bill saying it ‘falls short at every level.’
‘It does little to truly address violent crime while opening the door to unnecessary burdens on the exercise of Second Amendment freedom by law-abiding gun owners,’ the statement said. ‘This legislation can be abused to restrict lawful gun purchases, infringe upon the rights of law-abiding Americans, and use federal dollars to fund gun control measures being adopted by state and local politicians.’
Former President Donald Trump has also come out against the bill, hammering McConnell – who he had a falling out with once McConnell wasn’t supportive of the ‘big lie’ – for his support.
‘Mitch McConnell’s push for Republican Senators to vote for Gun Control will be the final straw,’ Trump posted to Truth Social Thursday. ‘Just like he gave away the ebt Ceiling and got NOTHING in return, or handed the Dems a great sound bite and victory with the Infrastructure Bill, which is actually all about the Green New Deal, he is now forcing approval of the FIRST STEP IN TAKING AWAY YOUR GUNS!’
‘Republican Senators SHOULD NOT VOTE FOR THIS CAREER ENDING BILL!!!’ Trump wrote.
Trump also referred to Cornyn as a ‘RINO,’ a Republican in name only.
The Senate vote took place just hours after the Supreme Court struck down a New York state law that made people give ‘proper cause’ if they wanted to carry a handgun in public.
The fresh ruling opens to door to permitting all law-abiding Americans to carry concealed and loaded handguns in public.