What’s in the bipartisan US gun control bill? And what isn’t?

The bipartisan plan would be the most significant federal reform in decades, but falls short of restrictions long sought by gun control advocates.

US legislators say they have reached a long-sought bipartisan gun control framework [File: Rick Bowmer/AP Photo]

Following a spate of shooting massacres, the United States Senate has reached an agreement on gun control legislation that could be the most significant passed on the federal level in decades.

On Tuesday, the US Senate voted to fast track the 80-page bill, which legislators said currently has the bipartisan votes needed to pass in the chamber. It passed with a vote of 64-34, with 14 Republicans joining all 48 Democrats and two allied independents to back the bill. A final vote on the package was expected later this week.

Barring any major changes, the legislation would likely easily pass in the Democrat-majority House of Representatives and head to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

The legislation, which is opposed by the powerful National Rifle Association gun lobby, falls short of many of the wider measures called for by gun control advocates and Biden. It does not include a ban on assault weapons and universal background checks.

Still, gun control groups have said the bill would be an important first step in a country that has not seen any major gun control measures passed in decades, despite a continually high rate of gun violence that has included 278 mass shootings in 2022 alone, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

Here is what was included and what was excluded from the bill:

What is in?

Support for ‘red flag’ laws

Among the marquee measures included in the bill are resources for states and tribes to “create and administer” so-called “red flag” laws, also known as “extreme risk” laws, which allow family members and law enforcement to petition a court to temporarily prevent an individual deemed to be “a significant danger to themselves or others” to access a gun.

Such laws have exploded in states across the US since 2018, when a 19-year-old man killed 17 people with a semiautomatic rifle at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In the wake of the shooting, 14 states passed “red flag” legislation, adding to five that already had the laws on the books, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a group that advocates for gun control.

However, the bill falls short of implementing a national “red flag” law and while it would encourage the passage of such laws in state legislatures, it does not address states that refuse to pass the legislation.

Enhanced review for below-21 gun buyers

The bill requires a ten-day “investigative period to review juvenile and mental health records, including checks with state databases and local law enforcement” for gun buyers below the age of 21 years.

The measure is an apparent compromise amid calls to raise the federal age to buy a semiautomatic rifle – the weapon of choice in several high-profile mass shootings – from 18 to 21. The attackers in recent massacres in Parkland, Florida, Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas had all bought guns before they turned 21, which is the legal drinking age in the US.

Closing so-called ‘boyfriend loophole’

The bill would also seek to close a current gap in federal US law that prohibits domestic abusers from having a gun, but only applies to people who have been married to, resided with or have a child with the victim.

The plan would extend the definition to include “those who have or have had a continuing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature”, closing what has become known as the “boyfriend loophole”.

Penalties for ‘Straw Purchases’ and licence evaders

The bill would crack down on people who buy a gun for someone who is not legally allowed to own one, people who traffic guns, or dealers who illegally evade licensing requirements.

Expanding mental health, school safety funding

The bill would expand support for community mental health, suicide prevention and crisis intervention. It would also expand support for mental health services in schools and school safety training.

What is not included?

Assault weapons ban

During an impassioned speech in early June, President Biden called on legislators to pass a new federal ban on assault weapons, which have been regularly used in prominent mass shooting incidents.

Such a measure, which prohibited the manufacture, transfer and possession of semiautomatic assault weapons and the transfer and possession of large-capacity ammunition feeding devices, had been signed into law in 1994, but expired 10 years later.

The measure is widely opposed by Republicans. Currently, just seven states and the District of Columbia have bans on assault weapons.

Increased age requirement

The bill does raise the age for buying a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21 nationwide. Federal law currently prohibits anyone younger than 21 from legally buying a handgun.

Expansion of background checks

The proposal does not include a measure pushed for by gun control advocates that extends the length a gun dealer must wait to receive the results of a federal background check from three days to 10 days. Under the current loophole, a gun sale can proceed if a federally required background check takes longer than three days. The policy allowed a man, who was legally prohibited from having a firearm, to buy the gun he used to fatally shoot nine people at a historically Black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.

The plan also does not close a loophole in federal law that allows some gun sales made over the internet and at gun shows to not require a background check.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies