CHN: Bipartisan Gun Legislation Signed into Law

On June 25, President Biden signed into law bipartisan gun legislation with some positive aspects and some aspects that concern advocates. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (S. 2938) did not go as far as most Democrats wanted, but it was deemed a compromise that could get Republican support in a divided Senate. The law will strengthen criminal background checks for those under age 21 and incentivize states to provide records of criminal convictions and mental health crises to the National Instant Background Check System for people 16 and older. It will also create grants for states to support crisis intervention programs and would expand restrictions on gun ownership for individuals convicted of domestic violence against a dating partner.

The bill contains several mental health provisions that advocates applauded, including funding for mental health services in schools, expansion of telehealth services, increased enforcement of diagnosis and testing programs, the expansion of certified mental health clinics, and additional funding for a nationwide 988 suicide prevention hotline.

However, many advocates expressed opposition to provisions in the law intended to “harden” schools, including increased funding for police in schools, that have disparate impacts on students of color and those with disabilities and have been shown to do more harm than good. The National Center for Youth Law said, “Approaches such as school hardening, student surveillance, and police on campuses put all students at risk, and particularly children and communities of color.”

Advocates also opposed the Supreme Court’s decision on June 23 to overturn New York’s concealed-carry permitting law. Everytown for Gun Safety said in a statement that “the Supreme Court got this decision wrong, choosing to put our communities in even greater danger with gun violence on the rise across the country.” As CHN’s Public Policy Priorities document states, “CHN supports stronger gun violence prevention laws and programs to prevent the senseless violence that continues to threaten children’s safety and the safety of our communities, with a focus on non-punitive community-based violence prevention and intervention models that treat violence like a public health issue.”