Senate Republicans handed President Biden a huge win with the nation’s first new federal gun-control law in decades, but the bipartisan deal and its tighter restrictions on firearms remain hugely unpopular across much of the GOP.
Former President Donald Trump decried the new gun laws as an authoritarian assault on Second Amendment rights.
He also heaped blame upon Senate Minority Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, for orchestrating the Democrats’ gun win.
“Instead of taking guns away from law-abiding Americans, we should try taking them away from the gangs, the cartels, and the violent criminals,” Mr. Trump said at a “Save America Rally” on Saturday in Mendon, Illinois.
The former president’s take on the deal was echoed in other Republican circles.
Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, the chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, tweeted: “Instead of cracking down on criminals, the Senate gun control bill would limit the Second Amendment and due process rights of law-abiding gun owners.”
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She vowed to keep fighting for the constitutional rights of her constituents.
A USA Today/Ipsos poll in early June found that half of the Republican voters supported stricter gun laws, though that was before the Senate legislation emerged.
The poll, conducted on the heels of two horrific mass shootings, showed GOP support for new gun laws rose from 35% last year to 50%.
Still, the overwhelming majority of Republicans in Congress oppose the bipartisan gun bill. About 70% of Senate Republicans and roughly 93% of House Republicans did not support the deal.
For Democrats, the gun victory was unimaginable just a few short weeks ago.
Any celebration on gun control, however, was muted by the left’s momentous defeat Friday on abortion rights, with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
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Democrats had moved the gun legislation through Congress with lightning speed once Mr. McConnell and 14 other Senate Republicans on Thursday provided the necessary votes to break a GOP filibuster.
The Democrat-run House passed it on Friday, with 14 House Republicans providing yes votes, though Democrats had the votes to pass it without Republican help.
The next day, Mr. Biden inked it into law.
“This is a monumental day,” he said. “When it seems impossible to get anything done in Washington, we are doing something consequential.”
The new law expands background checks to buy firearms, offers incentives for states to adopt “red flag” laws to confiscate guns from people a judge deems dangerous, and adds funding for school security and mental health programs.
The breakthrough in the Senate, where Republicans have blocked significant gun-control laws for nearly 30 years, followed a spate of deadly mass shootings that shook the country.
The horrifying bloodshed included a racially-fueled attack that killed 10 Black people in Buffalo, New York, and an attack on a Texas elementary school that killed 19 children and two teachers.
The new law also includes:
• An extension of federal background checks to include state juvenile records and to make it illegal to sell guns or ammunition to people with felony juvenile records.
• An expansion of the definition of domestic violence to close the “boyfriend loophole” by including dating relationships. It blocks people with such convictions from gun ownership.
• Eligibility for gun ownership for individuals with domestic violence charges after five years provided they keep a clean criminal record.
• A felony designation for individuals who purchase guns for those who cannot legally buy or own them.
• A requirement for individuals who repeatedly buy and sell firearms to license as gun dealers.
• An additional $100 million in taxpayer funds for the federal background check system.
• A $2 billion allocation to the Education Department for mental health and school safety.
• $1 billion in grants for mental health programs to be administered by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Mr. McConnell, who both signed off on the bipartisan gun talks and voted for the legislation, insisted Congress struck the right balance.
“The American people do not have to choose between safer schools and the Constitution, and neither does the United States Senate,” he said.
However, Republican critics argued that the deal infringes on American gun rights without any guarantee that the new measures would have prevented recent mass shootings or will stop future mass shootings.
Gun-rights groups such as the National Rifle Association also opposed the new laws.
The federal promotion of red-flag laws, in particular, hit a nerve with Republicans.
“They can take your guns. They can take away your Second Amendment rights and then you have to petition to have a subsequent hearing where you get them back,” said Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee. “That’s what this legislation does.”
The 14 House Republicans who voted for the bill were a mix of moderates from swing districts such as Maria Elvira Salazar of Florida and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, and never-Trumpers such as Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Tom Rice of South Carolina and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.
In the Senate, Republicans who joined Mr. McConnell in voting for the bill included John Cornyn of Texas, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Todd Young of Indiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Roy Blunt of Missouri and Richard Burr of North Carolina.
Apart from Ms. Murkowski and Mr. Young, none of the lawmakers who backed the bill are seeking reelection this year.
• Joseph Clark and Haris Alic contributed to this report.