Despite a crazy amount of propaganda from the right, most Americans have woken up to the fact that daily mass shootings in America do not arise from a video game problem or a mental health crisis; it's the guns, stupid.
The horrific shootings at Uvalde, Tx, finally got the attention of the two holdout Senators in the Democratic party, Senators Manchin and Sinema, and a House Bill that had been languishing for lack of support in the Senate finally made its way through Congress to the President's desk. Knowing that the bill was likely to pass without Republican support, 15 Republicans decided to sign on to make it a bipartisan bill, the Safer Communities Act, that was finally signed by President Biden on June 25, 2022.
Gun reform is a huge issue, and this bill only moves the needle a tiny bit, but it is still hugely significant because, so far, representatives beholden to the NRA and their gun-fetishing primary voters have refused to do anything at all. The hope is that this bill is just the beginning of a reevaluation of American gun culture and a momentum for more action in the future.
Here is what the bill does:
Juvenile records, including those regarding mental health, would for the first time be required in criminal background checks for prospective gun buyers under the age of 21.
Provide $750 million in federal money to states that create so-called red flag laws, which allow guns to be temporarily confiscated from people deemed dangerous by a judge. (Unfortunately, leaving it to the states means only a few Democratic states or states with Democratic Governors are likely to implement this.)
Expand current law that bars people convicted of domestic violence or subject to a domestic violence restraining order from buying a gun.
Allocate billions of dollars to schools and communities for expanding mental health programs.
Crack down on “straw purchasers” or people who buy guns for those who would not qualify. Establish a penalty of up to 15 years in prison or 25 years if the firearms are used in connection with serious criminal activity like drug trafficking or terrorism.
Unfortunately, the bill doesn't deal with some gun reform measures that are extremely popular across party lines, like universal background checks, smart guns, and banning assault weapons. No mandatory waiting period, no licensing for guns, no blanket prohibitions for domestic abusers, and no to many other common sense reforms that were stymied for lack of support in the Senate. But it is still the first bill to be passed dealing with guns in years. To get real action on gun reform, more Democratic representation in the House and Senate is needed, since these measures have broad public support.