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WASHINGTON — The Senate advanced a bipartisan gun safety bill in response to deadly mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, with one of Utah's Republican senators voting for debate on the legislation and the other against.
In a 64-34 vote Tuesday, the Senate moved to proceed to the 80-page bill a little over an hour after negotiators made the text public, giving lawmakers little time to digest its details.
Sen. Mitt Romney, who was among the 20 GOP and Democratic senators who negotiated the package, joined 14 Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in voting to open debate. Senators who support the proposal say it would end a 30-year logjam on gun safety legislation.
"This effort is focused on protecting human life in a way that's consistent with the Constitution," Romney said in a statement, adding the bill would save lives and preserve the rights of law-abiding citizens.
Sen. Mike Lee, who earlier lamented the lack of a bill, voted against starting debate, saying "process matters."
"This evening, we received text of a new gun proposal, and a blind vote was required within an hour. With only moments to review, no committee hearing, and no regular order, a vote was held with implications concerning an essential constitutional right," he said in a statement.
The legislation does not ban assault-style rifles or high-capacity magazines. It gives states more resources to remove guns from dangerous individuals, even if they haven't been convicted of a crime, and provides billions of dollars in funding for mental health treatment.
Romney said the bill provides for more mental health and security resources in schools, improves background checks without infringing on Second Amendment rights and helps ensure that people in romantic relationships, where there's been a conviction of domestic violence, are not able to carry out violence.
This effort is focused on protecting human life in a way that's consistent with the Constitution.
–Sen. Mitt Romney
It also provides support for states that implement crisis intervention measures — including red flag laws with sufficient due process, he said.
Provisions in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act include:
- $750 million available to states to create and administer laws that help ensure deadly weapons are kept out of the hands of people a court has determined to be a significant danger to themselves or others, and other purposes such as mental health courts, drug courts, veterans courts and extreme risk protection orders that have sufficient due process.
- Adding convicted domestic violence abusers in dating relationships to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, including a process for removal from the database five years after the completion of the sentence, only if there are no intervening prohibited crimes or other similar offenses.
- Cracking down on criminals who illegally evade gun licensing requirements and clarifying which sellers need to register, conduct background checks and keep appropriate records.
- An investigative period to review juvenile and mental health records, including checks with state databases and local law enforcement, for buyers under age 21.
- New federal straw purchasing and trafficking criminal offenses, allowing prosecutors to target dangerous illegal gunrunners.
- $250 million in funding for community-based violence prevention initiatives.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, were among the lead negotiators on the bill.
We received text of a new gun proposal, and a blind vote was required within an hour. With only moments to review, no committee hearing, and no regular order, a vote was held with implications concerning an essential constitutional right.
–Sen. Mike Lee
"For decades, the anti-gun violence movement has been met with obstacles and frustrations, and yet they've been tireless in their pursuit of change," Murphy said in a statement. "Their advocacy has made this moment possible."
Cornyn, who was booed at the Texas State Republican Convention for supporting the proposal, said the legislation would protect children, keep schools safe and reduce the threat of violence across the country.
"We look forward to earning broad, bipartisan support and passing our commonsense legislation into law," he said in a statement.