We Got A Gun Bill! It's ... OK, We Guess?

We Got A Gun Bill! It's ... OK, We Guess?

On Sunday afternoon, the Senate announced it had actually rustled up a gun control bill that ten whole Republican senators say they could vote for.

The bill was crafted by a bipartisan group of 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats: Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Cory Booker (D- N.J.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Angus King (I-Maine), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). As such, it's not great. But it's something and probably the best we are ever going to get, unless somebody tries to assassinate Ronald Reagan again. There is at least one thing in it that will actually maybe do something to prevent mass shootings, so that's nice.

The statement from the senators says the bill increases needed mental health resources, improves school safety and support for students, and helps ensure dangerous criminals and those adjudicated as mentally ill can’t purchase weapons. So let's take a look.

Support for State Crisis Intervention Orders
Provides resources to states and tribes to create and administer laws that help ensure deadly weapons are kept out of the hands of individuals whom a court has determined to be a significant danger to themselves or others, consistent with state and federal due process and constitutional protections.

Although it's not the federal red flag law we would have liked, this — we guess — will incentivize states to pass their own. This will allow for guns to be (temporarily) taken away from those who pose an imminent threat, allowing some recourse when someone exhibits signs of violent behavior and/or seems like they just might go and murder someone or shoot up a school. It's especially important for victims of domestic violence and stalking.

As much as people like to claim, "Oh, if people want to kill themselves or kill someone else, they'll find a way whether they have a gun for not," such feelings are often transient, and the less convenient it is to kill someone or kill yourself or commit any crime, the less likely people are to actually go through with it.

Investment in Children and Family Mental Health Services
National expansion of community behavioral health center model; 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 and recovery.

The mental health funding in this bill makes a lot of us feel some kind of way. It's great we are getting mental health funding, but attaching it to a bill to address mass shootings increases the stigma of mental illness, not least of all because the vast majority of those who commit mass shootings do not have a diagnosable condition. Conservatives like to pretend the problem isn't automatic rifles, but rather "crazy people," for the purpose of not stigmatizing gun owners and guns in general.

This part is less bothersome, however, because it addresses suicide. Guns are a particular problem when it comes to suicide. Despite accounting for only six percent of suicide attempts, guns are the cause of 54 percent of all successful suicides. These suicides account for over two-thirds of all gun deaths. If we can't get guns out of the hands of people who might use them to kill themselves, this is at least something.

Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence
Convicted domestic violence abusers and individuals subject to domestic violence restraining orders are included in [the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)], including those who have or have had a continuing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.

This will at least do something to tighten up the "boyfriend loophole" (which allows domestic abusers who are not married to their victims to buy guns), so that's something. Ideally, we'd like to see this applied to anyone with a restraining order against them, particularly for things like stalking, but baby steps.

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 programs and school based mental health and wrap-around services.

Again, mental health funding is great, it's something we want. It would just be really great if this were not attached to a gun control bill.

Funding for School Safety Resources
Invests in programs to help institute safety measures in and around primary and secondary schools, support school violence prevention efforts and provide training to school personnel and students.

That's fine.

Clarification of Definition of Federally Licensed Firearms Dealer
Cracks down on criminals who illegally evade licensing requirements.

Also fine, although it's worth noting that a lot of people who commit shootings do not have criminal records.

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

Here's the next verse, same as the first, a little bit louder and a whole lot worse: mental health funding is great, but can we please stop trying to link these crimes to mental illness? It's gross. Especially because those who have mental illnesses are not only more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it, but they are two and a half times more likely to be victims of violence than those who do not have mental illnesses.

Under 21 Enhanced Review Process
For buyers under 21 years of age, requires an investigative period to review juvenile and mental health records, including checks with state databases and local law enforcement.

Ugh. This is where I actually do have a problem, if only because no one should be able to access juvenile records, period. It's one thing if they just get a "red flag" on their background check saying that they can't buy a gun, it's another for a gun dealer or anyone to be able to look at juvenile criminal records, which are sealed or expunged for a reason. And what kind of mental health records are we talking here?

Penalties for Straw Purchasing
Cracks down on criminals who illegally straw purchase and traffic guns.

That is also fine.

So yeah. It's not great, but it's something. It would be a hell of a lot better if we could get an assault weapons ban, or at least an assault weapons ban for those under the age of 25, but Republicans apparently would rather see 10,000 children get their heads blown off than one person denied the ability to own 10,000 assault rifles, so this may very well be the best we can get.

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse


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