In a rare Saturday bill signing at the White House, President Biden wasted no time in approving a mammoth anti-gun and social spending measure.
The 80-page "Bipartisan Safer Communities Act" was only unveiled late Tuesday and before the week was out its text was shoehorned into a bill, S.2938, that was originally to rename post offices in Petaluma and Tallahassee. Showing that Washington can get questionable legislation rushed into law in near-record time, it was passed 65-33 by the Senate on Thursday and 234-193 by the House on Friday. In all, 29 Republicans-- 15 in the Senate and 14 in the House-- sided with Democrats on Capitol Hill to send the bill to Biden.
"Time is of the essence, lives will be saved," said Biden just before signing the bill and leaving the White House immediately after by helicopter with Dr. Jill Biden. "While this bill doesn't do everything I want, it does include actions I've long called for that are going to save lives."
S.2938 includes in its structure:
Imposing an "enhanced background check" review process, which includes reviewing juvenile mental health records for adults less than 21 years of age seeking to purchase or transfer a firearm. The law would allow the process to take as many as 13 business days before a delay could default to proceed. This section would sunset in 2032 if not renewed.
Amending current law to clarify who needs a Federal Firearms License to buy and sell firearms with Biden saying a background check would have to be done before "selling a single weapon." This would be at odds with the 36 states that generally do not require universal background checks for private person-to-person gun sales.
Eliminate the so-called "boyfriend loophole" by prohibiting someone convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence as part of a "dating relationship" from purchasing or possessing a firearm for at least five years.
Make straw purchases and gun trafficking a distinct class of federal crime, eligible for up to 25 years in prison.
Billions in taxpayer dollars will be made available to the states for mental health and afterschool/before-school programs, authorizing outlays to CHIP and Medicaid. Folded into the outlay but not talked about much by the proponents of the bill is up to $750 million for controversial "red flag" programs in which an individual’s gun rights can be voided for up to a year without a trial on a thin "pre-crime" affidavit presented to the court contending someone may be a threat to themselves or others. Such laws are seen by many as constitutionally suspect when it comes to due process protections. The two-page policy document released with the bill by Biden's office doesn't mention gun seizures, simply saying it "would provide States with funding to implement extreme risk protection order programs."
Notably absent is any language addressing increased school security initiatives other than forming a "Federal Clearinghouse on School Safety Evidence-based Practices" staffed by state and Federal homeland security and Department of Education members. It is not clear if any of the dollars authorized by the bill will actually go towards on-the-ground protection measures such as school resource officers or even locks. In fact, the text of the measure specifically prohibits the use of funds authorized under the Act to "train or equip any person with dangerous weapons in schools."
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated S.2938 would affect some $9.5 billion in outlays in 2022 alone.