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Public policy expert, former Brady Center CEO react to new gun legislation

Biden Guns
Posted at 4:04 PM, Jun 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-25 16:04:13-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A former Indiana mayor who went on to work to prevent gun violence and an Indianapolis public policy expert are weighing in after President Biden signed a bipartisan gun safety bill.

The bipartisan bill, which was supported by Indiana Republican Senator Todd Young and 14 other Republicans, includes money for mental health, school safety and more. It also implements a waiting period on gun purchases for those under age 21. It was opposed by the NRA.

While the new gun law does not include tougher restrictions long championed by Democrats, such as a ban on assault-style weapons and background checks for all firearm transactions, it is the most impactful gun violence measure produced by Congress since enactment a long-expired assault weapons ban in 1993.

Dr. Pierre Atlas, Senior Lecturer at IUPUI's Paul H. O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, is calling the legislation significant.

"What's good about this law, it's precise ... it has a lot of different elements to it. I believe there are things in this law will actually reduce gun violence," Atlas said.

He says Indiana will benefit from the federal funding that will come from the bill.

"I think the two goals of this bill are to go after or to reduce access to firearms by people who probably shouldn't be having them and also to greatly increase funding for mental health, red flag laws, school safety, stuff like that," Atlas said.

RELATED: FedEx shooting led to changes in Indiana's Red Flag law, which has seen dozens of firearms seized

Paul Helmke, the former Republican mayor of Fort Wayne, also served as the president and CEO of the Brady Center/Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. He says when he was mayor, he thought gun laws were weak in America. It's an issue he still cares about.

"It's so unnecessary for us to have the level of gun violence that we do," Helmke told WRTV. "There's no perfect solution, there's no one law that's going to stop all the gun violence. Evil does exist, there are bad people, but we need to try to make it harder for them to do these bad things."

The Associated Press shared the following highlights of the bill:

—Expanded background checks: State and local juvenile and mental health records of gun purchasers will be part of federal background checks for buyers age 18 to 20. Three-day maximum for gathering records will be lengthened to up to 10 days to search juvenile data. If 10 days lapse without a resolution, the sale will go through.

—“Boyfriend loophole”: Convicted domestic violence offenders will be denied guns if they have a current or past “continuing serious relationship of a romantic or intimate nature” with victim. Abusers' right to buy firearms will be restored after five years if no additional violent crimes are committed. Firearms are currently denied to domestic abusers if they are married, live with or had a child with victim.

—Red flag laws: Federal aid will be given to the 19 states, plus the District of Columbia, that have laws helping authorities get court orders to temporarily remove guns from people deemed dangerous. Those states will need strong processes for challenging the taking of firearms. Other states could use money for crisis intervention programs.

—Mental health: The bill will expand community behavioral health clinics, help states bolster mental health programs in schools and provide more mental health consultations remotely.

—Education: The bill will increase spending on school mental health, crisis intervention, violence prevention programs, mental health worker training and school safety.

—Federally licensed gun dealers: Current law requires that people “engaged in the business" of selling guns be licensed, which means they must conduct background checks. The bill defines that as selling firearms ‘‘to predominantly earn a profit," in an effort to prosecute people who evade the requirement.

—Gun traffickers: The bill will create federal crimes for gun traffickers and “straw purchasers" who buy guns for people who would not pass background checks. The penalties are up to 25 years in prison. Such offenders are now primarily prosecuted for paperwork violations.

—Cost: The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the cost of the bill at $13 billion, mostly for mental health and schools. That is more than paid for by further delaying a 2020 regulation that's never taken effect requiring drug manufacturers to give rebates to Medicare recipients. That regulation would increase federal Medicare costs.