The Bipartisan Gun Safety Bill Is Now Law

The bill broke through a sclerotic legislative branch precisely because it falls far short of what most Americans say they want.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

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President Joe Biden signed the first federal gun safety legislation in decades today, finally breaking a stalemate on the issue that has long persisted in Congress. 

“This time, when it seems impossible to get anything done in Washington, we are doing something consequential,” Biden said. 

Passed in the aftermath of the horrific back-to-back mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, the legislation provides $750 million for states to fund violence prevention plans and mental health programs. The bill also shores up background checks for 18- to 21-year-olds and eliminates the so-called “boyfriend loophole”—a gap in existing law that previously allowed domestic abusers to acquire deadly weapons so long as they and their partners were unmarried and childless

The legislation also includes funding for states to implement red flag laws. However, the red flag provisions aren’t mandatory, and, as my colleague Abby Vesoulis has reported, it’s extremely unlikely that Republican-controlled states will adopt them. 

The legislation is notable for breaking through a sclerotic legislative branch mired in partisan wrangling. Nevertheless, it falls far short of the proposals that gun control advocates have pushed for and that most Americans say they want in public opinion surveys, such as universal background checks and assault-weapon bans. Democrats, including Biden, have described the bill as a small step forward that will help break the seal on gun safety, rather than a conclusion to the debate. 

“While this bill doesn’t do everything I want, it does include actions I’ve long called for that are going to save lives,” Biden said.

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