What’s in the Bipartisan Gun Bill? Boyfriend Loophole Explained

Senate negotiators reached a day on bipartisan gun legislation that, if passed, would tighten gun laws in the United States prompted by the school shooting Uvalde, Texas.

In the wake of the shooting, which left 19 students and two teachers dead, both Democratic and Republican lawmakers began negotiations on new gun control legislation intended to curb the ongoing gun violence epidemic across the U.S. Negotiators walked a fine line between finding a deal that could be backed by at least 10 GOP senators, while also not losing the support of the Democratic Party’s more liberal faction, which has advocated for even more far-reaching gun laws.

Senators on Tuesday released the full text of the bill, which outlines exactly what measures will be included. Senators aim to pass the bill this week, before the chamber’s July 4 recess begins—leaving less than a week for the bill to pass.

The bill’s text comes more than one week after senators announced a gun safety framework that saw consensus on several topics including funds for mental health and grants for states to enforce red flag laws, but negotiations on several priorities continued.

What is in gun safety bill
Senate negotiators reached a deal on a new gun safety bill. Mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, prompted renewed calls for stronger gun laws. Above, gun control advocates protest in Washington, D.C., on June 20, 2019.
JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

So far, 10 Republicans announced support for the framework earlier in June—meaning it earned just enough support to reach the 60-vote threshold required by the Senate‘s filibuster. The bill would mark a historic tightening of gun laws, a priority gun control advocates have pushed for years.

Boyfriend Loophole

One of the more tenuous proposals in the bill negotiators have debated includes efforts to close the “boyfriend loophole” in a push to prevent those convicted of domestic abuse from owning firearms.

Currently, federal law prevents those who have been convicted of domestic abuse against a partner they are married to, living with or share children with—but not for those convicted of abuse against a partner they are dating.

Democrats have pushed to close this “loophole” to prevent anyone convicted of domestic abuse from owning a firearm, but efforts to include this in the gun safety package had become a roadblock to passage, CNN reported.

Lawmakers had previously been unable to determine exactly how to define what constitutes a domestic partner, but had ultimately reached agreement by Tuesday. The bill would ban anyone convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence who has a “current or recent former dating relationship with the victim” from owning a gun, according to the text of the bill. The law allows them to regain gun rights after five years, so long as they don’t commit any other violent misdemeanors.

Red Flag Laws

Lawmakers also worked to reach a compromise on red flag laws, which conservatives have largely opposed. The laws would allow authorities to temporarily remove firearms from people they believe to be a danger to themselves or others. Ultimately, the bill does not include a national red flag law.

Instead, it provides funds for states to expand “crisis intervention programs,” which in some states would include red flag laws. In total, it provides $750 million to fund these programs, according to the bill’s text.

Mental Health Funding

The bill includes new grants funding mental health programs. It would fund school-based mental health services, tele-mental health assistance for children, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, support for the fallout from traumatic events, and other programs to create awareness for mental health among students, according to a press release from Senator Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat.

Republicans have pushed to blame the high number of U.S. mass shootings on mental health issues. Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have called for an increase in mental health funding, so this will likely satisfy members of both major parties.

It also allocates billions of dollars to schools, including more funds for mental health staff and school safety, according to the statement.

Enhanced Search for Young Gun Buyers

Senators also agreed on a window of three business days to allow local authorities to perform stronger background searches on gun purchasers younger than 21 years old. This would allow authorities to search databases to ensure there are no issues that would disqualify them from gun ownership.

It does not go as far as some Democrats—who pushed to raise the minimum age to purchase guns—have hoped, but it could still help local authorities identify potential red flags in aspiring young gun purchasers. Current law bans anyone younger than 21 from purchasing a handgun, but younger buyers are still able to purchase other types of guns, including rifles frequently used in mass shootings.



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