Senate Passes Bipartisan Gun Control Legislation

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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The Senate passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act on Thursday night, the most significant piece of gun legislation to clear the upper chamber since the 1994 assault weapons ban.

The legislation, negotiated by 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans, includes incentives for states to pass red flag laws and increased funding for mental health services, among other provisions. Republican Texas Sen. John Cornyn spearheaded the legislation in the aftermath of mass shootings at a Buffalo, New York supermarket and a Uvalde, Texas elementary school. (RELATED: Sen. John Cornyn Gets Heckled By Texas GOP Amid Gun Control Negotiations)

Fifteen Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, joined all 50 Democrats in voting for the bill.

Some conservatives have expressed concern about the provision governing red flag laws. The laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders, will be instituted at the state level. Individuals subject to the orders are not guaranteed attorneys for their court appearances, since the orders are pursued under civil proceedings. More than 72% of Republicans believe red flag laws could be abused by the government, a poll conducted by The Trafalgar Group and Convention of States Action shortly before the Senate vote found.

The bill also closes the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” which allows individuals convicted of domestic violence-related offenses to retain the right to own guns if they are not married to the victim or do not live with their victim or the child of their victim. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act expands the ban to individuals in a “current or recent former dating relationship with the victim.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is expected to bring the legislation up for a vote before the lower chamber departs for recess. The House previously passed legislation raising the legal age for purchasing certain semi-automatic rifles to age 21 and requiring gun owners to store their weapons in a safe, but the Senate never seriously considered it.