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Senate advances bipartisan gun violence bill

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Senate advances bipartisan gun violence bill
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, announces senate negotiators have reached agreement on gun legislation with the draft of the bill and a procedural vote expected "soon." File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

June 21 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate on Tuesday moved forward bipartisan gun legislation that negotiators had agreed upon only hours earlier, which followed weeks of mediation ignited by a series of mass shootings that left scores of Americans dead.

The lawmakers voted 64-34 Tuesday in the provisional vote, with 14 Republicans joining the Democrats, to advance the 80-page bill shortly after it was unveiled by a group of 20 bipartisan Senators.

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"This bipartisan compromise will not end gun violence, but it is an important step towards making our nation safer, and it represents the most significant gun safety reforms and violence reduction investments in decades," Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate's top Democrat, tweeted following the vote.

"While this does not accomplish everything I wanted, we cannot let perfect be the enemy of good," he said. "Now, let's get it passed."

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The bill, which represents the largest federal gun reform legislation in three decades, has garnered support from both sides of the aisle.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement of endorsement for the bill, calling it "a commonsense package of popular steps," while his Democratic counterpart, Chuck Schumer, vowed to have the Senate pass it by week's end.

"Tonight, the Senate took the first steps to move life-saving gun safety legislation in the Senate and we will move to final passage as soon as possible," the New York Democrat said late Tuesday.

RELATED 20 bipartisan senators announce deal on gun legislation, mental health services

The bill was unveiled earlier in the day by a group of lawmakers who last week had announced an agreement for its framework that includes gun restrictions, mental health funding and school security investments in an effort to curb mass shootings.

The group of 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans, led by Sens. John Corny, R-Texas, and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said the package would "protect America's children, keep our schools safe and reduce the threat of violence across our country."

In its final form, the bill closes the so-called boyfriend loophole, which will prohibit convicted domestic abusers and those subject to domestic violence restraining orders from buying guns.

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It also funds crisis intervention orders, including "Red Flag" laws, allowing authorities to remove firearms from individuals found to be a threat to themselves or others.

Funds are also included for children and family mental health services and for school safety measures as well as tightens gun purchasing laws by narrowing the definition of a federally licensed firearms dealer, while requiring a review period of mental health records for anyone under the age of 21.

Negotiators had hit a snag over the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortions and could potentially conflict with gun law funding for mental health.

The gun legislation outline did not include a provision supported by President Joe Biden to raise the minimum age for purchasing semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21 years-old.

Lawmakers had been working for days to turn their negotiations into this specific bill that could get Republican's filibuster-proof support in time for a vote before the two-week July 4 recess.

The effort to fashion a gun reform bill came in the wake of last month's deadly elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 students and two teachers were killed and one at a Buffalo, N.Y., supermarket that left 10 people dead.

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In both shootings, the gunman was an 18-year-old armed with assault weapons.

The National Rifle Association issued a statement Tuesday criticizing the bill for putting "unnecessary burdens" on the Second Amendment and warned it could be abused to restrict lawful gun purchases.

"This bill leaves too much discretion in the hands of government officials," it said.

However, gun rights activists were quick to voice support for the measure with NAACP President Derrick Johnson saying his organization was "encouraged" by the bipartisan effort.

"When school children, churchgoers and grocery store shoppers are being gunned-down, the perfect cannot be the enemy of the good," Johnson said in a statement. "The bill is a step in the right direction, and any step in the right direction is a step we must take."

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