In June 2022, President Joe Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act into law. The bill, which marked the first major gun legislation passed by Congress in nearly 30 years, was spurred by back-to-back mass shootings in May 2022. The new gun safety bill aims to save lives by enhancing background checks, providing funding for mental health resources and school safety, and expanding the definition of a domestic abuser to include dating partners.
Read this article to get an overview of the new gun safety bill and how it will impact your right to bear arms.
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Many people often do not realize they have broken any gun laws until they face charges. The newest gun safety bill will only add more confusion into the mix. You need a seasoned criminal defense attorney on your side. We will advise you of your rights and defend you in court if necessary. Call 303-688-0944 today to begin your free case assessment.
Mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York in May 2022 prompted the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. These unrelated incidents occurred within 10 days of each other and left 31 people dead.
As the name suggests, the gun safety bill was authored by a small group of Democrat and Republican legislators. It represents a decades-long effort to craft a gun safety law that protects citizens from gun violence without infringing on gun owners’ Second Amendment rights.
What’s in the Gun Safety Bill?
Here’s what the new gun safety bill aims to accomplish:
- enhance background checks for gun buyers 18 to 21 years old
- incentivize states to pass “red flag” laws that allow courts to temporarily confiscate firearms from people who have been deemed a danger to themselves or others
- distribute hundreds of millions of dollars for mental health and school safety
- close the “boyfriend loophole” in a federal law that prohibits domestic abusers from purchasing guns
- crack down on “straw purchasers” – people who buy firearms for individuals who aren’t supposed to have them
Let’s take a closer look at these provisions.
Enhanced Background Checks for Young Adults
Prospective gun buyers under the age of 21 will face more exhaustive background checks under the new gun safety bill. These buyers will be subject to a three-day initial review process of juvenile and mental health records. The review process includes checking state databases and consulting local law enforcement. If authorities find a disqualifying juvenile criminal or mental health record, they must turn it over to the FBI for future investigation.
Let’s say you’re a 19-year-old trying to buy a firearm. Authorities find concerning mental health records in your initial background check. You will then have to undergo an additional review process that could last up to 10 days.
Additionally, the bill allocates funding to federal and local law enforcement to carry out these background checks and keep accurate criminal and mental health records.
The enhanced background check provision does not come without limits. For example, let’s say you have a disqualifying criminal or mental health juvenile record. However, if the disqualifying incidents happened before someone turns 16 years old, they will be able to purchase a gun.
This Provision Has a Shelf Life
Note that this is a “sunset” provision, meaning it will automatically expire in 10 years unless further action is taken to extend it.
Funding for States with Red Flag Laws
The new gun safety bill allows the federal government to distribute $750 million in federal money to states that create “red-flag laws.” Red-flag laws permit authorities to temporarily confiscate guns from people who have been deemed dangerous by a federal judge.
The funding will also support the creation of crisis intervention court programs.
Colorado’s Red Flag Law
In April 2019, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed the Extreme Risk Protection Order, more commonly called a “red flag law.”
Under Colorado law, a family member or law enforcement officer can petition the court to have someone’s weapons temporarily taken away from them. If the judge approves the petition, police can seize the weapons immediately.
Colorado’s “red flag” law allows the temporary confiscation of firearms from anyone who “poses a significant risk of causing personal injury to self or others in the near future by having in his or her custody or control a firearm or by purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm.” Colo. Revised Statute § 13-14.5-103
Read more about Colorado’s red flag law.
Closing the “Boyfriend Loophole”
This provision is meant to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. Under current federal law, convicted domestic abusers are only barred from buying a gun if they:
- are married to their victim,
- live with their victim, or
- have a child with their victim.
This gun safety bill expands the current law to prohibit anyone convicted of domestic violence or subject to a domestic violence restraining order from buying a gun. This includes other intimate partners, closing what is known as the “boyfriend loophole.”
How Does the Law Define “Dating?”
A dating relationship is defined in the context of this legislation as “a relationship between individuals who have or have recently had a serious relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.”
Can Convicted Domestic Abusers Earn Their Gun Rights Back?
Yes, but not all of them. Anyone convicted of non-spousal misdemeanor domestic abuse will be able to own a gun again after five years if they keep a clean record. However, convicted spouses will be banned from purchasing guns for life.
Funding for Mental Health and School Safety
Schools and communities nationwide will receive billions of dollars in funding to expand mental health programs.
The funding will also boost school safety. The bill grants $300 million over five years to fund school resource officers and bulk up school security.
Additionally, this funding would help train school personnel and other adults who interact with minors to respond to mental health issues.
Tougher Penalties for Illegal Purchasers
The bill cracks down on straw purchasers. A straw purchaser is someone who buys a gun for a person who is not qualified to do so themselves.
Penalty for a Straw Purchase
Let’s say you have a friend who is not eligible for a gun purchase due to a past domestic violence charge. Under this new law, buying a gun for that friend could land you up to 15 years in prison. That sentence increases to 25 years if the firearms you purchased are used in connection with serious criminal activity, such as drug trafficking or terrorism.
Defining a Federally Licensed Firearms Dealer
Under current federal law, federally licensed firearms dealers are required to conduct background checks and maintain records of all gun sales.
Per the 1986 Firearms Owners’ Protection Act, a federally licensed firearm dealer is “a person who devotes time, attention, and labor to dealing in firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit through the repetitive purchase and resale of firearms.” This definition did not extend to those who sold guns online or at gun shows.
The new gun safety bill clarifies that anyone who repeatedly buys and sells firearms “to predominantly earn a profit” must register as a federal firearm licensee. It also mandates that these licensees conduct background checks and keep appropriate records.
Call a Criminal Defense Attorney Today
Gun charges are serious. Our criminal defense attorneys can help. We will dispute wrongful gun charges and argue for lighter sentences if appropriate. Call 303-688-0944 today to begin your free case assessment.