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:
- Lisa Murkowski, Alaska
- Mitch McConnell, Kentucky
- Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania
- Todd Young, Indiana
- John Cornyn, Texas
- Lindsey Graham, South Carolina
- Thom Tillis, North Carolina
- Mitt Romney, Utah
- Rob Portman, Ohio
- Joni Ernst, Iowa
- Susan Collins, Maine
- Bill Cassidy, Louisiana
- Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia
- Roy Blunt, Missouri
- 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.