Senators Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and Rand Paul were among the majority of Republicans who voted against the first gun law in more than two decades, though 15 Republicans — including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — voted in favor.
A total of 33 Republicans voted against the bill, although Republican Senators John Cornyn of Texas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina negotiated the bill with Senators Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Republican Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota did not vote.
The legislation comes a month after a white supremacist allegedly opened fire, killing 10 people, and less than a month after a gunman opened fire and killed 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School. In the days after the shooting, Mr. McConnell hired Mr. Cornyn of Texas to negotiate the legislation, and Mr. Tillis joined thereafter.
“I’ve been saying all along that the real measure of whether or not we’ve succeeded is whether this law will save lives. And I’m confident that will be the case,” he told The Independent. “I mean, this is a difficult subject. And you know, people come from different states and with different orientations and have to make their own political calculations, but for me the best politics is good politics.”
Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama was among the senators who opposed the legislation.
“Well, I’m a second change type. I wish we would just deal with mental health and privacy issues and set it on a sunset, maybe a five-year plan, but that didn’t happen,” he said The Independent.
Despite the fact that his fellow Texan, Mr. Cornyn, was a key negotiator on the legislation, Mr. Cruz made a lengthy speech expressing his opposition to the legislation.
“When you disarm law-abiding citizens, you disarm law-abiding people,” he said. “That’s almost by definition if they’re law-abiding citizens. But the criminals don’t obey the law.”
Along with Mr. McConnell and the negotiators, Republican Senators Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and Todd Young of Indiana all voted in favor.
“Pleased with the outcome,” said Mr. Romney as he entered the Senate elevator.
Mr Toomey – who along with West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin had tried to pass the last major gun control bill after the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, which failed – said he was pleased it would be part of his legacy when he retiring at the end of the year.
“You know, my goal has always been to require background checks on commercial sales,” he said. “This doesn’t do exactly what Joe Manchin and I set out to do a while ago, but it does extend background checks to some categories of commercial sales. And I find that constructive. It has other elements that I think are constructive and most important.”
Before the vote, the National Rifle Association announced its opposition to the law.
“This is a gun control bill. That’s why the NRA is against it. End of story,” she tweeted.
The legislation creates an enhanced screening process for people under the age of 21 who wish to purchase a firearm to undergo enhanced screening of their youth and mental health records. It is also establishing a program for states to pass extreme risk protection laws — also known as “red flag laws” — that prevent anyone who could pose a risk to themselves or others from receiving a gun.
Senator Mike Braun of Indiana opposed the legislation, saying Indiana has already passed legislation with red flags and measures to make schools safer.
“So I think most of that could probably have been done by the States,” he said. “And we in Indiana, us in particular, probably had a red flag law for 17 or 18 years.”
Additionally, individuals who engage in “straw purchases” — where someone who can pass a background check buys a gun for someone who cannot — could face either a fine, up to 15 years in prison, or both. This can be raised to 25 years if the weapon is used in an act of terrorism or drug trafficking.
The law also closes the “boyfriend loophole,” which allowed people who committed domestic violence against a romantic partner but did not live with, marry, or have a child with their partner to obtain a firearm.
Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who was part of the bipartisan group of 20 senators who worked on the legislation, said that while the legislation was a compromise, it made it bittersweet. But he also said the tide has changed since he entered the Senate in 2010.
“I think the American people are rising up. Plus the faces of those Uvalde victims combined with the memories of all the other children,” he said. “Americans’ unspeakable fear of sending their children to school every day, one of the worst parents, a parent told me in Connecticut that her child told her there hadn’t been a day in the past year and she wasn’t surprised go to school if that was the day their school would be attacked.”
Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, one of the most vulnerable Democrats up for re-election, said the legislation is incredibly important because Oct. 1, 2017, when a gunman opened fire at a country concert, was one of the deadliest days in Las history was Vegas.
“And yes, we are a state where we are responsible gun owners or secondary security,” she said. “We also pass universal background checks, we pass a red flag. This is another step forward, not hopefully not just the last step, another step forward in the fight against gun violence.”
President Joe Biden, who helped draft the last gun bill the Senate passed when he passed the federal ban on assault weapons as a senator in 1994, praised the passage.
“This bipartisan legislation will help protect Americans. Children in schools and communities will be safer as a result. The House of Representatives should vote on this bipartisan bill immediately and send it to my desk.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already indicated that the legislation would be passed quickly.