Over the weekend, President Joe Biden signed a federal gun violence prevention bill into law.
If you ask many Americans about what happened in this past weekend’s news, it’s a good bet many would tell you about the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. Did you know that major legislation on gun violence prevention also took place?
The voting began on Thursday, June 23, when the US Senate took a gun violence prevention bill, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, into consideration. The bill tackled several issues including enhanced background checks for gun buyers between the ages of 18 and 21, expanded denial to domestic violence offenders, red flag laws for dangerous individuals, mental health, and more.
The say of the Senate vote, US Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) held a media availability where he spoke about the legislation.
“For a lot of people, this legislation didn’t go far enough,” Warner said. “I think, frankly, the kind of sensible gun reforms we’ve put in place in Virginia should’ve been the broader model.”
This certainly isn’t Warner’s first tie-in with the issue. Last year, Warner and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) reintroduced the Virginia Plan to Reduce Gun Violence Act at the federal level. The bill called for improving background checks, limiting handgun purchases to one a month, reporting lost or stolen firearms within 48 hours, preventing firearm access to minors, strengthening safeguards for victims of domestic violence, and establishing a federal extreme risk protection order process. Several of those provisions made it into the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
Kaine also spoke in favor of gun reform on the day of the Senate vote, recalling his time on Richmond’s City Council, where he and other local leaders tried various methods to reduce gun violence in the city.
“We had the second-highest homicide rate in the United States, and we worked so very hard in two terms as city councilman and two terms as mayor to bring down gun violence, to bring down gun homicides, to bring down aggravated assaults. And we tried things that didn’t work, and then we came up with new strategies, but we eventually succeeded. We eventually did bring down aggravated assaults and homicides by guns in Richmond,” Kaine said. “And that taught me something, which is, you can’t give up; that America suffers from an unacceptable, real public health emergency of gun violence, but we can’t be despondent and say, ‘There’s nothing we can do.’ Because if you do the right thing, you could make your community safer.”
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act passed the Senate with a bipartisan majority of 65-33 votes, and then moved on to the US House of Representatives.
The House Vote
On the same day that Roe v. Wade was overturned, the Democrat-led US House of Representatives passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act with a mostly party-line vote of 234-193.
Several Representatives from Virginia voted in support of the act, including Rep. Donald McEachin (VA-04), a Democrat.
“Every day, gun violence touches our communities, and we see the devastating impacts in the lives of American families. Gun violence is a public health crisis, and it demands immediate action. Today, I am voting in support of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to take an important step to curb gun violence, protect our children, and help save lives,” McEachin wrote in an emailed statement on June 24. “I am proud to vote in support of this crucial legislation and help send it to President [Joe] Biden’s desk for signature. While there is more we must do to address the gun violence epidemic, this legislation represents meaningful, bipartisan progress and an important step forward. I will continue my efforts to pass practical policy solutions that reduce gun violence and protect our communities.”
Rep. Abigail Spanberger (VA-07), a Democrat, took to Twitter, where she posted a five-part thread on the issue. The first woman to ever win a congressional seat in District 7 said that she heard from countless Virginians asking leaders to step up and protect them, their children, and communities from gun violence.
Calling the measures long overdue, Spanberger tweeted in part: “By advancing a bipartisan agreement that includes more comprehensive background checks, strengthens incentives for states to adopt ‘red flag laws,’ and closes the ‘boyfriend loophole,’ we are taking real action to help protect families, students, and law enforcement alike.”
Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Morgan Griffith (VA-09) posted a statement on his website, reading in part: “The Senate’s gun bill threatens the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners. It supports red flag laws at the state level but does not in my opinion include sufficient guarantees that these laws respect due process rights, opening the door to time-consuming and expensive litigation.”
While gun laws sometimes receive party-line votes, a 2018 Pew Research Center study found that more Americans prioritized controlling gun ownership (52%) than protecting gun rights (44%).
President Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act on June 25, tweeting: “I just signed into law the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. While this bill doesn’t do everything I want it to, it does include actions that I’ve long called for that will save lives. Today, we acted for the families that have lost their souls to an epidemic of gun violence.”