Washington, D.C. - Students from across the D.C. area protest gun control laws and gun reform in front of the White House, in this file photo. Source: Josh Gruber
Washington, D.C. - Students from across the D.C. area protest gun control laws and gun reform in front of the White House, in this file photo. Source: Josh Gruber

Need to Know

  • A bipartisan coalition of Congress passed the most significant gun legislation in decades. 
  • The law will require stricter background checks for people under 21, put more mental health services in schools, and prevent domestic abusers from acquiring weapons.
  • The law contrasts with a Supreme Court ruling that makes concealed carry permits easier to acquire. 

MICHIGAN—Over the weekend, President Joe Biden signed into law major reforms around purchasing guns, school safety, and mental health. It’s the most significant gun safety package in 30 years. The new law includes segments of what advocates in Michigan had called for following a school shooting in Oxford, Michigan.

Major parts of the package include incentives for states to pass so-called “red flag laws” that temporarily withhold guns from dangerous individuals, closing loopholes in keeping guns from people convicted of domestic assault, and providing more mental health and safety resources to schools.

“This bill doesn’t do everything I want, but includes actions I’ve longed called for that saves lives,” Biden said. 

A group of 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans in the US Senate came to a compromise following the recent massacre at a Uvalde, Texas, school, where a shooter killed 19 children and two adults.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) and Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Grand Rapids) joined their Democratic colleagues from Michigan to pass the final amendments through the House. The president signed the bill Saturday.

“One piece of legislation will not solve the broader issues of violence and mental health; that will require communities coming together to address social alienation, lack of purpose, and familial erosion,” Meijer said in a press release. “But this bill is a significant step in the right direction that will save lives, and I voted in favor of it today.”

All told, the bipartisan package had 12 other Republican supporters in the House, including Rep. Tony Gonzales, an NRA-backed conservative whose district includes Uvalde.

Michigan Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, both Democrats, supported the package in the Senate, which passed the chamber 65-33. 

The package’s major points are: 

  1. Support for State Crisis Intervention Orders: The new law creates support for states to establish their own red flag laws. Though stopping short of creating a federal red flag law, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act incentivizes states to create their own.

    State legislators in Michigan have been asking for red flag laws for years, renewing calls after the Oxford shooting. Following the shooting, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) promised that these bills would finally receive a hearing. They have yet to, and the sponsor of the package, Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-Beverly Hills), told The ‘Gander last month she’s not optimistic they will. Now, Michigan leaders will have more agency to move forward with those conversations, provided voters continue to pressure Lansing for follow-through measures.

  1. Investment in Children and Family Mental Health Services: The law includes hundreds of millions supporting community mental health services, including creating new grant programs that support maternal and child wellbeing.

  2. Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence: People convicted of domestic assault against spouses, cohabitating partners, children, and coparents may be barred from obtaining a firearm, under prior law. This latest expansion closes the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” by broadening enforcement to include anyone who’s been convicted of domestic assault against a boyfriend, girlfriend or otherwise romantic partner, regardless of whether or not they live or have lived together.

    The law is not retroactive.

  1. Funding for School-Based Mental Health and Supportive Services: The new law puts more money toward schools bringing in health centers, telehealth, and community-based health services under Medicaid.
  2. Funding for School Safety Resources: The website SchoolSafety.gov will be expanded to include new resources and best practices. 
  3. Clarification of Definition of Federally Licensed Firearms Dealer: Prior to the law, certified arms dealers needed to obtain a Federal Firearms License, but people could still sell guns on a smaller scale without registering for the license. There had been no threshold which qualified individuals as having to register as federally licensed firearms dealers.

    This new law clarifies the definition and will require more sellers to register as federally licensed firearm dealers, in effect enforcing more background checks and increasing oversight of gun shows.

  1. Telehealth Investments: States will receive funds to expand telehealth services, at large and in schools.
  2. Under 21 Enhanced Review Process: People under the age of 21 will be subject to more stringent background checks before they can purchase a gun. These background checks will include a minimum three-day waiting time and a review of juvenile and mental health records before the purchaser can be approved.
  3. Penalties for Straw Purchasing: The law imposes greater penalties for individuals who purchase a gun for someone else who is not legally allowed to own a firearm. The penalties have been increased to up to 15 years in prison or up to 25 years in cases where the gun is used to commit a crime. 

Gun safety advocates in Michigan called the final package a compromise, suggesting there’s still more work to be done but that the breakthrough legislation is the first hint of progress in a long time.

“A step forward? Yes. Enough action? No,” wrote Christopher Smith, board president of the Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, in a blog.

Last week, the US Supreme Court also struck down a New York law that required individuals to provide good reason to acquire a permit to carry a concealed firearm for self-defense. As a result, the right to concealed carry is likely to expand throughout various states, though Michigan already had relatively open laws on concealed carry.

The BBC called the decision the Court’s “most important judgment on guns in over a decade.”