The U.S. Senate approved bipartisan legislation to expand federal gun safety laws in aftermath of a Texas school shooting that left 21 dead. The U.S. House is expected to vote Friday on the bill. These weapons were seized in a gun-smuggling conspiracy case in Oregon. (Kansas Reflector screen capture from U.S. Department of Justice)
TOPEKA — Five Republicans of the Kansas congressional delegation voted against gun-safety legislation sent Friday to President Joe Biden with the blessing of all Democrats in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate as well as more than a dozen Republicans in both chambers.
Kansas’ GOP lawmakers rejected the bipartisan bill crafted in wake of mass shootings in Texas and New York during May that left 21 dead in a Uvalde elementary school and 10 dead at a Tops Friendly Markets store in Buffalo.
The legislation passed 65-33 in the Senate on Thursday and was approved 234-193 in the House on Friday. The measure received support from 15 senators and 14 representatives on its way to Biden, who is certain to sign it into law.
U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall said he wouldn’t be part of the “gun-grabbing scheme.” He predicted it would effectively strip law-abiding people of their Second Amendment rights.
Under the bill, federal grants would be provided to states for crisis intervention programs. Congressional aid would flow to states with red-flag laws, which enable law enforcement officers to petition a state court for temporary removal of firearms from people thought to be a danger to others or themselves.
“Red-flag laws not only violate the Second Amendment, but they are also begging to be abused by individuals who do not have a shred of respect for due process,” Marshall said. “I do not doubt that the corrupt political actors who have infiltrated the American legal system at various levels would happily oblige.”
The bill strengthened federal penalties for gun trafficking. It enhanced background checks for people 18 to 21. It also clarified who was considered a firearm seller for purposes of background checks on potential buyers. Another section would keep guns away from non-spouse dating partners convicted of abuse.
U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, a Democrat serving the 3rd District in the Kansas City area, voted for the bill. It was opposed by Marshall, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, U.S. Reps. Jake LaTurner of the 2nd District, Tracey Mann of the rural 1st District and Ron Estes of the 4th District in Wichita.
LaTurner, who serves eastern Kansas from the Nebraska to Oklahoma borders, said the gun-control bill conflicted with constitutional own guns. He said the legislation relied on tax dollars to prop up red-flag laws, singled out people under 21 for scrutiny and criminalized routine firearm sales.
He said a better solution would be to harden security in the nation’s school buildings and invest in expansion of mental health services.
“The recent shootings we have seen occur across our country are tragic, and the root causes must be addressed,” LaTurner said.
Estes said he opposed the legislation because it fell short of protecting students and inhibited the ability of citizens to use guns for personal protection.
“Our focus should be on keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, securing schools and enhancing mental health programs through enforcement of existing laws,” Estes said.
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