The Gun Control Controversy Comes to Light
Gun control has been the rallying point for students for many years, such as at the 2018 March For Our Lives in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Fibonacci Blue/Flickr)
Gun control has long been a controversial issue in the United States. With heated arguments over protecting the country’s Second Amendment rights or enacting stricter gun control laws, bipartisan progress has been slow and difficult.
Recent shootings, however, have brought the issue to light again. In Buffalo, New York, 10 people were fatally shot at a grocery store. In Uvalde, Texas 19 children were murdered by a man with an AR-15 rifle. These events on the national level have prompted many to call on the government for action. After horrific tragedies and bipartisan encouragement, President Biden signed a historical gun control law called the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act on June 23, 2022.
What does the Gun Control Bill do?
After many weeks full of debate, President Biden passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act which, after 30 years, has been the first gun law passed. Broadly speaking, the bill places stricter regulations on obtaining a gun and reducing possible human threats.
The bill requires more strict background checks for those under 21 years old. These background checks include juvenile, criminal, and mental health records that can now be examined for up to 10 business days. This specific rule has been met with satisfaction as well as anger. Those who have applauded the stern background checks reason that those as young as 18 years old are still developing emotionally and should not have access to a weapon as powerful as a gun. For example, Senator Dianne Feinstein has stated, “In Uvalde, 19 children and two teachers were massacred last month because an 18-year-old was able to buy an assault weapon. Just 10 days earlier in Buffalo, 10 people were shot to death in a grocery store because an 18-year-old was able to buy an assault weapon.” Both shooters in the Brooklyn and Uvalde massacres were 18 years old. From the scientific perspective, according to an emergency physician at Brown University, Megan Ranney, those younger than 21 years old are “still developing [their] frontal lobe, impulse control, judgment.” On the other hand, those who have been angered by the stricter background checks have argued that this limits the freedoms of a large age group and reduces their ability to defend themselves. For example, Matt Larosiere said that the bill “eliminates completely the ability of young adults of the mechanism of defending themselves.” The National Rifle Association (NRA) has also expressed a strong distaste for the new bill. Regardless of these conflicting opinions, Congress ultimately was able to negotiate keeping the legal age requirement at 18 years old, only enforcing stricter background checks instead of changing the legal age limit of buying a firearm to 21 years old―a goal strongly supported by the Democratic Party.
Another change is that over 15 billion dollars will be allocated to mental health organizations and schools to decrease the chances of school shootings and increase mental health assistance to those in need. School security will be increased and safety measures will be improved to prevent future tragedies. Additionally, many national shootings have spiked awareness of the necessity of mental health funding for children and adults; this additional change has been met with support.
Furthermore, “red-flag” laws will be utilized with increased funding and action. Court interventions will be increased with funding to eliminate possible threats. Courts can now prevent or take away the ability to own a gun for a person declared “a possible threat or danger.” Included in this reform is also increased prevention in possible “boyfriend loopholes,” which loosen restrictions to those convicted in domestic abuse cases. This provision intends to guard against violence and armed threats in the future.
Although some in Congress and the public hoped for stricter regulations, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act is still a major step in legislative cooperation on the issue of gun safety.
The Final Votes in Congress
In the House of Representatives, the final vote was 234–193. The House’s version of the bill initially had stricter gun control reforms before the bill was passed to the Senate. After being evaluated and examined in the Senate, the bill was met with a vote of 65–33. There was much negotiation and editing in the Senate to make sure both parties were in agreement on the new bill.
Ultimately, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act has made historic advancements expected in the wake of recent shootings, and with bipartisan effort, future legislation can be expected in ensuring the safety of the nation.
Sources & Further Reading