June 29, 2022 Blog

Congress FINALLY (!) takes action on gun violence

On Saturday June 25th, President Biden signed into law the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (S. 2938), the first significant legislation addressing gun violence to pass Congress in nearly three decades. It includes a broad array of evidence-based policies that we know will save lives, including creating enhanced background checks for gun buyers aged 18-21, partially addressing the dating partner loophole, cracking down on gun trafficking, funding implementation of state Extreme Risk Protection Orders, and more. Most of these changes are already the law of the land here in Washington. And unfortunately, the package also includes misguided provisions on mental health and hardening schools that appear to play into the gun lobby’s harmful arguments that try to deflect blame from the root cause of the crisis: easy access to guns.

Here is a brief summary of the law:

  • Narrows the rules for which unlicensed firearm sellers must obtain a license and conduct background checks. But, it does not completely close this loophole.
  • Creates new avenues for investigation and prosecution of straw purchasing and gun trafficking. While the intended effect is to disincentivize both crimes, we are concerned that the harsh penalties imposed might have a disproportionate impact on communities of color.
  • Narrows the “boyfriend loophole” by prohibiting a person convicted of a violent misdemeanor against a serious dating partner from possessing firearms for five years, but doesn’t close it completely. 
  • Allows extra time for additional investigative steps in reviewing juvenile records and the opportunity to consult with local law enforcement. But, it continues to allow a person under the age of 21 to purchase a long gun.
  • Provides $750 million in federal funding to support state implementation and establishment of state-level crisis intervention orders, including extreme risk protection orders. Closing this gap in federal engagement in creating and implementing state-based ERPO laws represents a major step forward.
  • Dedicates an additional $250 million in federal funding to support community-based violence intervention (CBVI) programs, which crucially address the root causes of gun violence.

While we’re proud to see more progress at the federal level than we have in decades, the Act is far from the comprehensive action needed to address the gun violence epidemic, which means Washington needs to keep leading the way.

–Dylan O’Connor is the Political and Government Affairs Manager at the Alliance