S. 2938, also known as the “Bipartisan Safer Communities Act,” was passed in response to recent mass shootings, including the massacre of 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde by an 18-year-old gunman.
Cornyn and some of his colleagues, including Murphy, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Thom Tillis (R-NC), reached the compromise after more aggressive legislation passed the U.S. House of Representatives.
The most conservative Republicans did not take well to Cornyn’s proposal. Delegates jeered the senator during his speech at the Republican Party of Texas convention in June.
Cornyn also saw a decrease in his popularity. In a poll by the University of Texas’ Texas Politics Project, in the days leading up to the law’s final passage, his disapproval rating rose to 50 percent. His approval rating was 39 percent in April.
The final vote in the U.S. House was 234 to 193, while the final vote in the Senate was 65 to 33. In the House, all Democrats and 14 Republicans voted in favor of the bill; every Democrat and 15 Republicans supported it in the Senate. Cornyn’s junior counterpart, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), voted against the law.
The law includes “dating relationships” in the statutes that allow the U.S. government to temporarily revoke someone’s right to purchase a firearm upon a misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence.
“Dating relationship” is defined in the text as “a relationship between individuals who have or have recently had a continuing serious relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.”
The definition explicitly excludes “a casual acquaintanceship or ordinary fraternization in a business or social context” and takes into account the duration and “nature” of the relationship.
Prior to Cornyn’s legislation, the law only allowed confiscation for domestic violence if the intimate relationship included factors such as children, marriage, or cohabitation. Some called this the “boyfriend loophole,” allowing those convicted of domestic violence with a non-cohabiting partner to purchase weapons.
The law also added criminal statutes against purchasing a weapon for someone who is prohibited from buying one, referred to as a “straw purchase.”
It sought to clarify the definition of a licensed firearm dealer and expand the use of background checks for those under 21 years old to include records of juvenile delinquency and mental health issues.
While the law has widely been characterized as a gun control measure, the provisions concerning firearms are relatively modest compared to the steps some Democrats have proposed, such as a renewed ban on semi-automatic rifles.
Critics say the act was intended to prompt state governments to enact “red flag” laws by providing funding for crisis intervention programs. Such laws allow a judge to order police to remove firearms from those considered a threat to themselves or others, if not surrendered willingly.
Opponents believe such laws are susceptible to abuse and provide an opening for violations of Second Amendment rights.
However, Cornyn rebutted those claims on social media, stating, “Our bill DOES NOT create a national red flag law, DOES NOT require or incentivize states to adopt red flag laws & no state is penalized for not passing one.”
“This bill would force states with red flag laws to adopt strict and comprehensive due process before they qualify for funding.”
The National Sport Shooting Association (NSSF) expressed support for some portions of the act, but opposed it on the grounds that it jeopardized the Second Amendment.
“We support requiring those who are in the business of selling firearms for profit be licensed under federal law,” the organization stated in a news release. “However, the proposed legislation fails to provide clear and needed guidance to our industry – particularly those who would be newly licensed – as to what conduct constitutes a willful violation warranting a revocation of their license.”
Joseph Bartozzi, president and chief executive officer of NSSF, also disputed Cornyn’s assertion that the law contains sufficient protections for constitutional rights.
“There are several provisions of this legislative package that NSSF could support including providing more resources for mental health services and school security,” Bartozzi said. “However, the ambiguity over state records, the lack of clear definitions, and unaddressed due process concerns prevent us from supporting this legislative package as presented.”
Some of the spending contained in the law can be found in the table below.
|Safe Schools and Citizenship Education||$1,000,000,000|
|State Crisis Intervention Programs||$750,000,000|
|School Based Mental Health Services||$500,000,000|
|Mental Health Services||$250,000,000|
|Violence Intervention and Prevention||$250,000,000|
|Community Oriented Policing Services||$100,000,000|
|Pediatric Mental Health||$80,000,000|
The text of S. 2938 can be found below.
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Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."