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What Tipped Balance in Gun Law Negotiations

The bipartisan gun bill that President Biden signed into law on Saturday was a product of unlikely pairings of senators and advocacy groups and was influenced in part by polling of gun owners that reassured Republican leaders to vote yes, the New York Times reports. The fragile deal nearly came apart, but ultimately the Senate's 65-33 vote last Thursday was followed Friday by the House's 234-193 vote the next day. Fifteen Senate Republicans and 14 House Republicans sided with Democrats to give Biden a bill that he praised at a signing ceremony as "doing something consequential." It is the first major gun control legislation passed by Congress in nearly 30 years.


Both the National Rifle Association and Everytown for Gun Safety, opponents in the gun-rights debate, were deeply involved in the Senate's dealmaking discussions. The NRA, which ultimately opposed the bill, sought to weaken existing law by proposing that a five-year sunset clause attached to the new "boyfriend" provision be applied to other domestic abusers, the Times' sources said. The bill closed the so-called boyfriend loophole that excluded intimate partners not married to or living with domestic violence victims from the federal gun ban. The new ban expires after five years for first-time offenders who committed misdemeanors, which senators refused to extend to others covered by the existing law. The bill's fate remained in doubt after the initial framework for a deal was announced June 12. One factor that tipped the balance in favor of passage was polling of 1,000 gun-owning households across the country, commissioned by Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, in which a solid majority of respondents backed increasing federal funding for states to maintain or enact red flag laws. More than 80 percent supported closing the boyfriend loophole and slowing down background checks to examine juvenile and mental health records of youthful gun purchasers. McConnell was among the senators voting for the final deal.