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June 28, 2022

'It's going to save a lot of lives': Inside the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act

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    President Joe Biden on Saturday signed a bipartisan gun reform bill into law, marking the "most significant" gun safety legislation in three decades—a move physician, nurse, and hospital groups across the nation praised as a "meaningful" step to address gun violence as a public health crisis.

    Infographic: Strategies to stop workplace violence before it occurs

    Biden signs into law the 'most significant' gun safety bill in almost 30 years 

    Last week, the House of Representatives and Senate passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act—marking the first time in almost 30 years Congress has passed major gun safety legislation. 

    The bipartisan bill, which includes measures to limit access to guns among young adults, individuals who have committed acts of domestic violence, and individuals who are considered a danger to themselves or society, was then sent to President Biden, who signed the measure into law on Saturday, noting that it was the "most significant" gun violence legislation in almost three decades.

    According to President Biden, the bipartisan package does not include "everything" he wanted, but "it's going to save a lot of lives."

    "It funds crisis intervention, including 'red flag' laws. It keeps guns out of the hands of people who are a danger to themselves and to others," Biden said. "And it finally closes what is known as 'the boyfriend loophole.' So if you assault your boyfriend or girlfriend, you can't buy a gun or own a gun."

    Under the law, individuals ages 18 to 21 will be required to undergo enhanced background checks. It also enforces more robust laws against gun trafficking and straw purchases, and more clearly outlines who must register to be a federally licensed gun dealer and perform background checks before they can legally sell a weapon.

    The legislation also includes measures related to mental health. It will provide funding to address the "youth mental health crisis," while focusing on survivors of gun violence, and investing in anti-violence programs.

    In particular, the legislation will provide $750 million to help states develop and run crisis intervention programs, $200 million in grants under the Stop School Violence Act, and $200 million to enhance the National Criminal Instant Background Check System. An additional $250 million will be invested in initiatives that address community violence and prevention. Millions of dollars will also be allocated to help improve pediatric mental health in schools.

    Notably, the House approved the measure exactly one month after a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, killed 19 children and two teachers, sparking outrage around the country and a call to action from advocates and families.

    "From Columbine to Sandy Hook, to Charleston, Orlando, Las Vegas, Parkland, El Paso, Atlanta, Buffalo, Uvalde, and for the shootings that happen every day in the streets," the message from Americans was simple, Biden said: "'Do something ... for God's sake, just do something.' Well today we did."

    "This bipartisan legislation will help protect Americans," he said. "Kids in schools and communities will be safer because of it."

    The health care industry responds

    After the legislation was sent to President Biden, physician, nurse, and hospital groups praised Congress for taking "meaningful action" to address what many have recognized as a growing public health crisis, MedPage Today reports.

    "Every day, emergency physicians shoulder the honor of being on the front lines while bearing the responsibility of treating the victims of firearms violence. We bear witness to this public health crisis and see firsthand how deeply it affects the lives of our patients, their families, and the communities we serve," said Gillian Schmitz, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

    "We thank Congress for taking these concrete steps to improve the safety and well-being of all Americans, including our children and victims of domestic abuse," Schmitz added.

    Separately, the American Medical Association (AMA) said it was pleased to see the bill signed into law. "[F]or the first time in nearly three decades, new measures to confront the public health crisis of gun violence are law. This law will save lives," said AMA President Jack Resneck, Jr., noting that there are more than 40,000 people killed by firearms every year.

    Ernest Grant, president of the American Nurses Association, also praised the passage of the "landmark gun safety legislation that will take meaningful action to address serious public health crises in the United States," and noted that nurses "know firsthand the horrible toll that guns have taken on our families and communities."

    Similarly, Bruce Siegel, president and CEO of America's Essential Hospitals, released a statement about the legislation. "The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act offers hope to our nation and to its health care workers, who face increased personal risk as caregivers often on the front lines of workplace violence. It would make needed investments in behavioral health care for youth and families and resources for providers, including for telehealth, community clinics, and mental health training," Siegel said. (Cochrane/Kanno-Youngs, New York Times, 6/25; Firth, MedPage Today, 6/25; Cochrane, New York Times, 6/24; Schnell, The Hill, 6/24; NPR, 6/24; AHA News, 6/24)

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