Congress Passes First Bipartisan Gun Safety Act in Decades, One Day After Supreme Court Upholds Second Amendment Right to Bear Arms in Public


Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay.

At long last, on the afternoon of Friday, June 24, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives joined the U.S. Senate in voting to pass a gun safety package, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. The law includes enhanced background checks for gun buyers under age 21, partially closes the dating or boyfriend loophole, provides funding to states for implementing extreme risk protection orders and provides added funding for mental health services and school safety.

Senator Ed Markey issued a statement on the preceding night, after the Senate’s passage of the bill. He called law the “first bipartisan safety agreement in decades. . . .We can’t keep prioritizing the Second Amendment ahead of second graders,” said Sen. Markey.

Mark Barden, co-founder and CEO of the Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund and father of Daniel, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, issued a statement. “Our lawmakers chose protecting our children and communities over partisan politics. We thank the Senate leaders who worked diligently to negotiate the Safer Communities Act, including Connecticut Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, as well as Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.”

“In passing this landmark bill, the House and Senate have proven that we can protect the Second Amendment and save lives. This is a significant step forward in addressing the gun violence epidemic in the U.S. We encourage lawmakers across the country to continue to implement and expand proven, common-sense reforms that can be immediately put to work to protect our children and communities," said Mr. Barden.

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act heads to President Biden’s desk for his signature one day after the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc., et al., v. Kevin P. Bruen in which the High Court determined that the constitutional right to carry a firearm in public for self-defense does not require a special showing of need. The Supreme Court struck down New York state's requirement that applicants seeking a license to carry a gun outside the home must demonstrate “proper cause." Lower courts had interpreted "proper cause" as a requirement that applicants need to show a “special need for self-protection distinguishable from that of the general community" to carry a gun in public.

“The constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defense is not ‘a second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees,’” wrote Justice Clarence Thomas for the majority, quoting  a plurality opinion by the Court in a previous case. 

“We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need. That is not how the First Amendment works when it comes to unpopular speech or the free exercise of religion. It is not how the Sixth Amendment works when it comes to a defendant’s right to confront the witnesses against him. And it is not how the Second Amendment works when it comes to public carry for self-defense. New York’s proper-cause requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment in that it prevents law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms,” concluded Justice Thomas for the majority decision in which the justices voted 6-3. 

Joining Justice Thomas in the majority opinion were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. Justice Stephen Breyer filed a dissent that was joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

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