US President Joe Biden has signed into law the most sweeping gun violence bill in decades, a bipartisan compromise that seemed unimaginable until a recent series of mass shootings.
Citing the families of shooting victims he met, the president said: “Their message to us was, ‘Do something.’ How many times did we hear that? ‘Just do something. For God’s sake, just do something.’ Today we did.”
Here are some highlights of the bill Biden signed on Saturday:
Expanded background checks:
- State and local juvenile and mental health records of gun purchasers will be part of federal background checks for buyers age 18 to 20 years.
- The three-day maximum for gathering records will be lengthened to up to 10 days to search juvenile data.
- If 10 days lapse without a resolution, the sale will go through.
- Convicted domestic violence offenders will be denied guns if they have a current or past “continuing serious relationship of a romantic or intimate nature” with a victim.
- An abuser’s right to buy firearms will be restored after five years if no additional violent crimes are committed.
- Firearms are currently denied to domestic abusers if they are married, live with or had a child with a victim.
Red flag laws:
- Federal aid will be given to the 19 states, plus the District of Columbia, that have laws helping authorities get court orders to temporarily remove guns from people deemed dangerous. Those states will need strong processes for challenging the taking of firearms. Other states could use money for crisis intervention programs.
- The bill will expand community behavioural health clinics, help states bolster mental health programmes in schools and provide more mental health consultations remotely.
- The bill will increase spending on school mental health, crisis intervention, violence prevention programmes, mental health worker training and school safety.
Federally licensed gun dealers:
- Current law requires that people “engaged in the business” of selling guns be licensed, which means they must conduct background checks. The bill defines that as selling firearms ‘‘to predominantly earn a profit”, in an effort to prosecute people who evade that requirement.
- The bill will create federal crimes for gun traffickers and “straw purchasers” who buy guns for people who would not pass background checks.
- The penalties are up to 25 years in prison.
- Such offenders are now primarily prosecuted for paperwork violations.
- The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the cost of the bill at $13bn, mostly for mental health and schools.