Gun Reform
Washington, D.C., United States - December 4, 2011:  Close-up of the dome of the United States Capit...

Congress' Gun Violence Deal Is A Major Change — Here's What's Going On

But it doesn't cover everything.

Photo by Robert Mooney/Moment Unreleased/Getty Images

After years of inaction on gun reform, new changes may be on the horizon. In the wake of several deadly mass shootings across the United States in just the first half of 2022 — Buffalo, New York; Uvalde, Texas; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and more — mounting public pressure from victims, students, parents, and several other high-profile figures has finally compelled lawmakers in Congress to take bipartisan action on stronger gun control legislation. Here’s what’s in (and what isn’t in) Congress’ new gun violence agreement, and how it might affect you.

The main negotiators of the deal are two unlikely political partners: Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, and Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas. “Today, we are announcing a commonsense, bipartisan proposal to protect America’s children, keep our schools safe, and reduce the threat of violence across our country,” Murphy, Cornyn and 18 other senators involved said in a June 12 joint statement. “Families are scared, and it is our duty to come together and get something done that will help restore their sense of safety and security in their communities.” The deal came three days after the House of Representatives passed their own expansive gun control package, on a 223-204 vote.

With bipartisan support, including that of 10 Republican senators, there is a very real chance this proposal may draw the 60 votes necessary to break through a Republican filibuster and reach a vote on the Senate floor. Even the possibility is a dramatic change from previous attempts to pass gun control legislation, which has been steadfastly opposed by congressional Republicans. While President Joe Biden said the agreement “does not do everything that I think is needed” in a June 12 statement, per CNN, he does believe it “reflects important steps in the right direction,” and will likely sign off on it should it reach his desk.

Per NPR, the deal has not yet been written down as legislative text. While it’s unclear when the agreement will actually come to a vote as details are being finalized, here’s what’s currently in it.

Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

What’s in the gun control deal:

According to the senators’ joint statement, the proposal will provide support and funding to encourage states to pass “red flag” laws, to keep guns out of the hands of people who are deemed dangerous to themselves or others.

The proposal will also provide major investments in mental health services for children and families, school-based mental health programs, and mental health care through telehealth services. According to the deal, these provisions are intended to “increase access to mental health and suicide prevention programs; and other support services available in the community, including crisis and trauma intervention and recovery.” Additionally, the proposal will provide funding for school safety resources, which will “support school violence prevention efforts and provide training to school personnel and students.”

The deal will also work to squelch criminal activity within gun trading: It will require the federal government to clarify the definition of a licensed firearms dealer, which will crack “down on criminals who illegally evade licensing requirements.” Additionally, it will include penalties for “straw” purchasing firearms, which means purchasing a gun for someone who isn’t legally able to do so themselves.

Perhaps one of the most significant provisions of Congress’ new gun reform proposal includes closing “the boyfriend loophole” by protecting certain victims of domestic violence. According to 2022 data from Everytown for Gun Safety, an organization dedicated to reducing gun violence in America, “intimate partner violence and gun violence in the US are inextricably linked,” and abusers with access to firearms are “five times more likely to kill their victims.” Under current federal law, people who have been convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse are still allowed to have guns, unless they were married to, cohabitating with, or had a child with their abuse victim. Congress’ proposal closes that loophole by including protections for “those who have or have had a continuing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.” It also expands the ban to people under domestic violence restraining orders. So, if Congress’ proposed legislation is passed in the Senate and signed into law, it would prevent abusive dating partners from purchasing firearms.

What’s not in the gun control deal:

While the proposal does include some of the most sweeping provisions on gun reform seen in any viable piece of legislation in decades, reform advocates still say it falls short: It doesn’t include a ban on assault weapons, of the type used in many deadly shootings. Nor does it include a ban on high-capacity magazines, which allow guns to fire more bullets without reloading.

It also doesn’t include universal background checks, which have long been a demand of the gun safety movement. Currently, federal law only requires background checks by licensed dealers, and there is no requirement to conduct background checks for private sales between individuals or online. And while it does include an enhanced review process for potential gun buyers under the age of 21, it doesn’t include an all-out ban on those young buyers looking to purchase deadly firearms.

Still, it’s a major step for a country that’s seen little success in curbing gun violence in recent years. “Our plan increases needed mental health resources, improves school safety and support for students, and helps ensure dangerous criminals and those who are adjudicated as mentally ill can’t purchase weapons,” the group of supporting senators wrote in their June 12 joint statement. “Most importantly, our plan saves lives while also protecting the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans. We look forward to earning broad, bipartisan support and passing our commonsense proposal into law.”