Bipartisan Safer Communities Act Background

So often around here people do things and say things not with the intention of actually passing legislation but with the intention of making a political statement or messaging. That's not what we're doing here.

"Law-abiding gun owners are not the problem. That was a red line for me. Unless a person is adjudicated mentally ill or is a violent criminal, no one's Second Amendment rights will be impacted by this legislation. Period."

"This bill does, however, include important targeted reforms, complete with robust due process protections that I believe, in the end, will keep our children and our communities safe while respecting Second Amendment rights."

-- Senator John Cornyn

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act includes:

Support for State Crisis Intervention Orders

  • Provides resources to states to implement crisis intervention court programs, which could include mental health courts, drug courts, Veterans’ Courts, and Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) programs.

○ Every state would receive funding based on an existing formula and have the flexibility to choose whichever crisis intervention programs would work best for them. There are no mandates, incentives, penalties, or set-asides.

○ If a state chooses to use any of this funding to implement an extreme risk protection order program, it would be required to meet strict and expansive due process, evidentiary, and standard of proof requirements. 

Investments in Children and Family Mental Health Services

  • Expands the community behavioral health center model nationwide and makes major investments to increase access to mental health and suicide prevention programs and other support services available in the community, including crisis and trauma intervention.

Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence

  • Updates the definition of misdemeanor crime of domestic violence to include those who have or have had a current or recent continuing serious relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with their victim.
  • Individuals convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence against a person with whom they have or have had a current or recent continuing serious relationship of a romantic or intimate nature would have their right to purchase and possess firearms automatically restored after five years elapsed from the end of their criminal sentence if they had committed no further crimes of violence.

Funding for School-Based Mental Health and Supportive Services

  • Invests in programs to expand mental health and supportive services in schools, including early identification and intervention.

Funding for School Safety Resources

  • Invests in programs to help institute safety measures in and around primary and secondary schools, supports school violence prevention efforts and provides training to school personnel and students.

Clarification of the Definition of Federally Licensed Firearms Dealer

  • Cracks down on criminals who illegally evade licensing requirements.

Telehealth Investments

  • Invests in programs that increase access to mental and behavioral health services for youth and families in crisis via telehealth.

Under-21 Enhanced Review Process

  • For buyers under 21 years of age whose background checks are flagged for cause, the bill allows up to seven additional days for the FBI to conduct an enhanced review into the possibly disqualifying juvenile and mental health adjudication records. 

Penalties for Straw Purchasing

  • Cracks down on criminals, cartel members, and terrorists who illegally straw purchase and traffic guns.

 

Correcting the Record: Myth Vs. Fact

MYTH: This measure creates a national, federal red flag law and forces states who don’t have them to adopt them.

THE FACTS

  • This does not create a national, federal red flag law
  • This legislation does not require or incentivize states to adopt red flag laws – and no state is penalized for not passing one. 
  • States without red flag laws, including Texas, qualify for equal funding and can use it to implement programs like Veterans’ Courts, Drug Courts, and Mental Health Courts.
  • This forces states who use grant funding for red flag laws to comply with strict and comprehensive due process requirements written into the bill, including:
    • The right to be represented by counsel;
    • The right to an in-person hearing;
    • The right to an unbiased adjudicator;
    • The right to know the opposing evidence and present evidence;
    • And the right to confront adverse witnesses.

 

MYTH: This measure gives taxpayer dollars to liberal states to take Americans’ guns away without due process. 

THE FACTS

  • Every state will receive grant funding and have the flexibility to use these funds on the crisis intervention court programs that work best for them.
  • This bill would force states with red flag laws to adopt strict and comprehensive due process before they qualify for the grant funding.
  • It does not require or incentivize any state to adopt red flag laws and does not penalize states for not having those laws. 

 

MYTH: Red flag laws let anyone tell the police or health care professional that someone is crazy and they immediately have their guns taken away.

THE FACTS

  • The bill ensures that won’t happen through strict and comprehensive due process requirements written into the bill. 
  • This would force states who use federal funds to implement red flag laws to adopt strict and comprehensive due process standards in order to qualify for the grant funding.

 

MYTH: The bill requires background and mental health checks for 18- to 21-year-olds.

THE FACTS

  • The bill does not mandate mental health checks.
  • Background checks are already required for anyone who wants to purchase a gun from a federally licensed dealer, including those in the 18-21 age range.
  • For buyers under 21 years of age whose initial background check is flagged by the FBI, they will have up to seven additional days to review only disqualifying juvenile records, including checks with state databases and local law enforcement.
  • This enhanced check for 18-20 year olds expires after 10 years.

 

MYTH: This bill requires people to hire a lawyer for “red flag” court proceedings, even if they can’t afford it.

THE FACTS

  • Under current law, these are civil proceedings, and many states don’t allow individuals to have a lawyer at all.
  • Our bill changes that and says in no uncertain terms that the respondent gets to have his or her lawyer fight this every step of the way.
  •  The right to have a government-funded lawyer applies only in criminal proceedings – not these proceedings, which are civil.

 

MYTH: Closing the “boyfriend loophole” is a new restriction and limits Americans’ gun rights.

THE FACTS  

  • Unless you are convicted of domestic violence, this will have no impact on your gun rights.
  • This provision narrowly applies to individuals in current or recently-ended continuing relationships of a romantic or intimate nature with their victim.
  • It is not retroactive.
  • Even if you are convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence against a non-spouse, you will automatically get your gun rights back after five years if you committed no further crimes.

 

MYTH: This bill creates mandatory waiting periods.

THE FACTS

  • This legislation does not create any mandatory waiting periods
  • Under existing law, any individual who goes to purchase a firearm from a federally licensed dealer undergoes a background check through the NICS system, and the FBI can investigate initial background checks flagged for review for up to three days. If the FBI does not act within those three days, the individual can automatically purchase a firearm.
  • Under our legislation and for buyers under 21 years of age whose initial background check is flagged by the FBI, they will have up to seven additional days to review only disqualifying juvenile records, including checks with state databases and local law enforcement. If the FBI does not act within those ten total days, the individual can automatically purchase a firearm.
  • This enhanced check for 18-20 year olds expires after 10 years.

 

Support and Endorsements

A coalition of leading law enforcement, mental health, domestic violence, and education groups have endorsed Senator John Cornyn (R-TX)’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, and multiple Editorial Boards have voiced their support.

Fraternal Order of Police/International Association of Chiefs of Police: “The legislation, which is a uniquely bipartisan effort, contains additional tools and resources for our communities to address the criminal misuse of firearms and strengthens our ability to provide mental health resources and services for those that need it.” (Fraternal Order of Police/International Association of Chiefs of Police, 6/23/22)

Wall Street Journal: “GOP negotiators led by Texas Sen. John Cornyn also blocked several Democratic Senate demands… The bill preserves gun rights while trying to keep guns away from the dangerous. That’s a step forward.” (Wall Street Journal, “A Sensible Senate Gun Deal,” 6/22/22)

National Sheriffs’ Association: “We appreciate the authors coming together on a bill that can actually save lives, which is written in such a way that allows the States to craft their own unique answers to the questions raised by gun violence.” (Executive Director and CEO Jonathan Thompson, National Sheriffs’ Association, 6/22/22)

Major Cities Chiefs Association: “[The MCCA’s Firearms Violence Policy] includes several common-sense references that will help keep communities safe while upholding the 2nd Amendment and protecting due process. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act also strikes this balance... The MCCA firmly believes that the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act will help save lives.” (President Chief Jeri Williams, Major Cities Chiefs Association, 6/22/22)

National Network to End Domestic Violence: “This provision is an important first step… Many previously unprotected victims will now have some safety from gun violence.” (President and CEO Deborah Vagins, National Network to End Domestic Violence, 6/22/22)

National District Attorneys Association: “The bipartisan package includes measures that not only address the use of firearms by criminal actors, but also recognizes the need to address the root causes of mental health challenges while also strengthening the ability of law enforcement to protect schools... We strongly urge the Senate to move swiftly on this bipartisan package.” (President Billy West, National District Attorneys Association, 7/23/22)

National Alliance on Mental Illness: “NAMI applauds the work of a bipartisan group of Senators recognizing the urgent need to invest in mental health services for our nation’s youth and families. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act will expand mental health resources in schools and increase the availability of mental health care across the country.” (CEO Daniel Gillison, National Alliance on Mental Illness, 6/22/22)

National Domestic Violence Hotline: “The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act offers common sense reform on gun safety, including partially closing the ‘boyfriend loophole.’” (National Domestic Violence Hotline, 6/22/22)

National Association of Police Organizations: “This bill contains robust due process and legal protections for citizens to ensure that no individual who has the legal right to own and possess a firearm can be denied that Constitutional right… the Safer Communities Act will indeed help make our communities safer.” (National Association of Police Organizations, 6/23/22)

National Association of School Psychologists & 99 Other Mental Health and Education Groups: “As national experts and advocates coming together as a coalition, we are grateful for the thoughtful, bipartisan efforts in response to the many tragedies our country has experienced including the recent tragedy at Robb Elementary in Uvalde… All these evidence-based investments are necessary to avert preventable tragedies in the weeks, months, and years to come.”  (100 leading mental health and education groups, 7/23/22)

American Psychological Association: “The American Psychological Association commends the Senate taking a first step toward addressing our nation’s public health crisis of gun violence with the introduction of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act… We look forward to working with Congress to pass this much-needed bill.” (President Frank C. Worrell, Ph.D., American Psychological Association, 6/22/22)

The legislation is also supported by the American Psychiatric Association, the Superintendents Association, the American School Counselor Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, the National Rural Health Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the American Academy of Family Physicians, Save the Children, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the American College of Physicians, the Children’s Hospital Association, the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School, the Electronic Security Association, and the Security Industry Association, along with other national and state domestic violence, mental health, and education organizations.