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Congress appears poised to deliver the biggest overhaul to the nation’s gun laws in nearly three decades. It’s a development few observers believed possible, even as mass shootings like those in Buffalo and Uvalde shook the country. Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff to explain what’s in the bill, what’s not, and where this proposal goes from here.
Whatever happens regarding the gas tax, Congress does appear poised to deliver the biggest overhaul of the nation's gun laws in nearly three decades.
It is a development few observers believed possible, even as mass shootings like those in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, shook the country.
Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins joins me now to explain what is in this bill, what's not, and where the proposal goes from here.
So, Lisa, let's start.
Let's start with the fact that this has several elements to it. Tell us what's in here. What does it look like?
This is an 80-page bill. That's not very long when you talk about how much it does, but it has some very specific elements to it.
And we want to start with that idea of, what are we talking about with guns specifically? Let's take a look. First of all, the title of this bill, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. In here, there are $750 million in grants that would help state and local officials and counties if they want to enforce and do more to implement things like red flag laws, crisis intervention.
That money also can be spent on mental health and veterans courts. So it's sort of up to communities what they do with that. This also would block boyfriends and girlfriends who have been convicted of domestic abuse from purchasing a firearm for at least five years, and it would crack down on straw purchases.
Those are the idea — that's the idea that someone purchases a gun legally, but actually is doing it for someone else who is not able to buy it legally, and then sells it to them. That is now — that would be illegal under this law.
So, in there, you see sort of different kinds of provisions appealing to different sorts of people, but all of them new aspects of gun law in the United States that would pass with this law.
Now, Lisa, we know also this includes part of an effort that is focused on young men who are troubled who may become violent.
Tell us about what in the bill would address that.
And we're going to take some time to talk about that, because that, in fact, is one of the main reasons that we're here, the shootings in Uvalde and also in Buffalo.
What do we know about those shootings? The suspects in those shootings teenagers, people between the ages of 18 and 21, able to get a hold of an assault-style or long gun, able to use those, of course, to — with incredibly lethal effect.
Now, here's what the bill does on that, in terms of tackling this idea of troubled youth. There would be a new record check for anyone 18 to 21 years old who would attempt to buy a long gun. That record check would last somewhere between three and 10 days, at least three days. And it would look into juvenile records, mental health records for young people, which are now not part of the process at all.
Now, here's the thing, though, Judy. Reading the bill last night, I discovered that that provision actually would sunset in 2032. It is a temporary provision. And that is part of the compromise here. But this is something that people think is significant and could save lives.
And, Lisa, we know that, while we're talking about, this is being described as the most significant gun — or bill to address gun violence in decades.
How did we get to this point of even having it?
Well, I think there are a few elements. Some of them have to do with personalities.
The two people who really pushed this through the most were Democrat Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who, of course, is known at the forefront of this debate because he's close to Newtown, and really took up the mantle of this idea of gun reform after the Sandy Hook shootings.
But then there's John Cornyn of Texas, which has seen repeated mass shootings in his state. The two of them got together and led this effort. And here's what they have said in the last day about the bill that they were able to craft.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX):
I don't want us to pass a bill for the purpose of checking a box. I want to make sure we actually do something useful.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT):
This bill will be too little for many. It'll be too much for others. But it isn't a box-checking exercise. This bill is not window dressing. This bill is going to save lives.
This was a focused bill. And it isn't just about the two aspects I mentioned above, but also some really significant aspects on health and safety.
So, let's look at those kinds of provisions as well in this bill, billions for schools and pediatricians to get mental health training, to expand mental health services for young people, also $300 million for school safety, the wide range of uses that can have.
And it's interesting, Judy. Something that Democrats got here in this compromise, grants cannot be used to fund gun training for teachers, something that Democrats didn't want to see. And that is, in fact, blocked in this bill
Judy, so notable not just what's in this bill, but who opposed it, the National Rifle Association. The NRA is opposed to this. This is the first bill in decades that we have seen likely to pass Congress on guns despite NRA opposition.
And, finally, Lisa, what does the timeline look like on this? If the Senate does pass it, what are the prospects in the House?
Right. It does look actually pretty good in the House.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is on board. We expect it to go through the Senate this week and the House to take it up after it comes back from July 4 recess. So stay tuned. But, right now it looks pretty good.
Stay tuned, for sure.
Lisa Desjardins, thank you.
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