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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate provides the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, June 23rd, 2022

After decades of inaction, U.S. Senate passes modest bipartisan gun safety package

Mod­est leg­is­la­tion that would final­ly — final­ly! — strength­en fed­er­al law to pro­tect Amer­i­cans from the scourge of gun vio­lence received a bipar­ti­san vote of sup­port today in the Unit­ed States Sen­ate, inter­rupt­ing a decades-long series of con­sec­u­tive fil­i­busters by Repub­li­cans against wor­thy gun safe­ty bills.

“Tonight, after twen­ty-eight years of inac­tion, bipar­ti­san mem­bers of Con­gress came togeth­er to heed the call of fam­i­lies across the coun­try and passed leg­is­la­tion to address the scourge of gun vio­lence in our com­mu­ni­ties,” said Pres­i­dent Joe Biden. “Fam­i­lies in Uvalde and Buf­fa­lo — and too many trag­ic shoot­ings before — have demand­ed action. And tonight, we acted.”

“This bipar­ti­san leg­is­la­tion will help pro­tect Amer­i­cans. Kids in schools and com­mu­ni­ties will be safer because of it. The House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives should prompt­ly vote on this bipar­ti­san bill and send it to my desk.”

“This is the most sig­nif­i­cant bill we have passed on gun vio­lence in decades,” agreed Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray, the third-rank­ing Demo­c­rat in the Senate.

“This bill does not do every­thing we need to end gun vio­lence, but doing noth­ing was the most extreme option on the table. The Bipar­ti­san Safer Com­mu­ni­ties Act will save lives — and that mat­ters. With this bill, we are final­ly crack­ing down on gun deal­ers skirt­ing the rules, clos­ing the boyfriend loop­hole, and tak­ing steps to keep guns out of the hands of indi­vid­u­als who have no busi­ness own­ing a gun.”

“This bill also makes crit­i­cal invest­ments in men­tal health ser­vices but let me be clear: our gun vio­lence cri­sis is a gun prob­lem, not a men­tal health prob­lem,” Sen­a­tor Mur­ray added in a state­ment laud­ing the vote. “Pass­ing the Safer Com­mu­ni­ties Act is impor­tant and mean­ing­ful progress — but we have to do more: we need uni­ver­sal back­ground checks, a ban on assault weapons, and a stronger com­mit­ment to com­mu­ni­ty vio­lence inter­ven­tion programs.”

“On behalf of the House, we applaud the Sen­ate for pass­ing its gun vio­lence pre­ven­tion pack­age on a strong bipar­ti­san vote,” said Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi, express­ing relief to see the Sen­ate over­com­ing its usu­al paralysis.

“First thing tomor­row morn­ing, the Rules Com­mit­tee will meet to advance this life-sav­ing leg­is­la­tion to the Floor,” the Speak­er pledged. “When the Rules Com­mit­tee fin­ish­es its busi­ness, we will head imme­di­ate­ly to the Floor. And we will send the bill to Pres­i­dent Biden for his sig­na­ture, with grat­i­tude for his leadership.”

The Speak­er’s announce­ment indi­cates that House lead­er­ship is firm­ly com­mit­ted to mov­ing at light­ning speed to get the bill out of Con­gress so that not anoth­er week of inac­tion elaps­es. In the span of less than a day, this bill will have cleared both cham­bers of Con­gress. The House has already adopt­ed leg­is­la­tion that would go fur­ther than the Bipar­ti­san Safer Com­mu­ni­ties Act, so there is no ques­tion that Democ­rats will have the votes to get this bill through.

But how many Repub­li­cans will join them? That remains to be seen. Unlike Mitch McConnell, who backed the bill, Kevin McCarthy has decid­ed to con­tin­ue to be part of the prob­lem instead of get­ting on board with mak­ing even minor changes.

The final vote on the Bipar­ti­san Safer Com­mu­ni­ties Act was 65–33, and the roll call from the Pacif­ic North­west was as follows:

Vot­ing Yea: Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Pat­ty Mur­ray and Maria Cantwell (WA), Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley (OR), Jon Tester (MT); Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Lisa Murkows­ki (AK)

Vot­ing Nay: Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors Jim Risch and Mike Crapo (ID), Steve Daines (MT), Dan Sul­li­van (AK)

The fif­teen Repub­li­cans who backed the bill were:

  1. Lisa Murkows­ki, Alaska
  2. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky
  3. Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania
  4. Todd Young, Indiana
  5. John Cornyn, Texas
  6. Lind­sey Gra­ham, South Carolina
  7. Thom Tillis, North Carolina
  8. Mitt Rom­ney, Utah
  9. Rob Port­man, Ohio
  10. Joni Ernst, Iowa
  11. Susan Collins, Maine
  12. Bill Cas­sidy, Louisiana
  13. Shel­ley Moore Capi­to, West Virginia
  14. Roy Blunt, Missouri
  15. Richard Burr, North Carolina

Most of the afore­men­tioned Repub­li­cans have “A” rat­ings from the NRA. There is strength in num­bers, which will make it more dif­fi­cult for the gun lob­by to exact ret­ri­bu­tion against these Repub­li­cans for cast­ing the wrong vote.

Ron John­son of Wis­con­sin, who recent­ly announced that he’s seek­ing reelec­tion, vot­ed against the bill, as did Mar­co Rubio and Rick Scott of Flori­da, which has a red flag law on the books. Iowa’s Chuck Grass­ley (who is up) also vot­ed nay.

“His­to­ry is made. Lives will be saved,” tweet­ed activist Fred Gut­ten­berg, whose daugh­ter Jaime was mur­dered in the Park­land school shooting.

“This his­toric vic­to­ry was made pos­si­ble by the relent­less resolve of gun vio­lence sur­vivors, par­ents, stu­dents, and neigh­bors who refused to do noth­ing in the face of the gun vio­lence cri­sis that steals more than one hun­dred and ten lives each day in this coun­try,” said Every­town for Gun Safe­ty.

We agree. This bill may be mod­est in scope, but sym­bol­i­cal­ly, it’s a huge accom­plish­ment. For the first time in eons, Sen­ate Repub­li­can oppo­si­tion to gun safe­ty leg­is­la­tion has been over­come. That’s mean­ing­ful. And worth celebrating.

There’s much more to be done, but today, for the first time in a very long time, we can say the Sen­ate act­ed in gun safe­ty. Even a small step counts as progress. And often, the first step is the hard­est. Hap­pi­ly, we took that first step today.

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