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Senate Gears Up for Next Gun Debate as Older Laws Face Tests

Federal legislation that would expand background checks of gun purchasers is back on the table, as courts undercut an existing gun-control law and last year's bipartisan gun legislation gets its first report card. The Wall Street Journal reports that Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Ct.), a longtime Senate gun-control proponent, reintroduced a bill that would expand federal background checks to all gun sales and private transfers. Forty-seven members of the Senate's Democratic caucus signed on as co-sponsors, but bipartisan support will be needed to reach the 60 votes required to advance the bill. Many Republican senators who voted for last year's Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which included expanded background checks for buyers under age 21, declined to say how they might vote on the latest bill. A companion bill introduced in the House faces even stiffer headwinds.

The 2022 law, the first major federal gun legislation passed in decades, has begun to show results, HuffPost reports. So far, more stringent background checks for younger gun buyers have resulted in 64 denied transactions, according to the FBI. The new law requires the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System to look for potentially disqualifying information at local law enforcement agencies, state criminal juvenile justice repositories, and state custodians of mental health records. Previously, the system generally looked only at adult court records. The expanded checks were phased in with just one state participating in October and a national rollout on Jan. 3. Since the law’s enactment, the system has denied 425 transactions involving buyers ages 18 to 20, the FBI said, with 64 of those a direct result of the new law’s juvenile background checks. It’s possible that firearm dealers refused additional transactions and that some sales went through without a timely response from the system. Meanwhile, a much older federal law barring gun possession for domestic abusers is coming under increasing pressure in courts nationwide following the Supreme Court's decision last year requiring gun laws meet a historical-standard test, the Journal reports. In addition to a well-publicized decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that a man with illegal-gun convictions and under a restraining order was entitled to Second Amendment protection, lower courts have ruled against a range of other gun laws, including other rulings on domestic-violence bans and on a gun ban for a marijuana conviction. “Before Bruen, pretty much all gun regulations were being upheld,” said George Mason University criminal-law professor Robert Leider, who favors a robust view of Second Amendment rights. “There’s been a reckoning because the historical test that Bruen announces collides with the fact that many of these laws have no historical pedigree.”


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