Supreme Court strikes down New York’s handgun law

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks at the US Capitol on Wednesday, June 22.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks at the US Capitol on Wednesday, June 22. (Ting Shen/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Just after the Supreme Court handed down its ruling on New York’s gun law, a major bipartisan gun safety bill moved one step closer to final passage in the Senate on Thursday after a critical vote succeeded in advancing the measure with Republican support.

The legislation is now on a path to pass the Senate before the week is out — with the potential for a final vote to take place as early as later today.

The bipartisan gun deal represents the first major federal gun safety legislation in decades. It includes millions of dollars for mental health, school safety, crisis intervention programs and incentives for states to include juvenile records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

It also makes significant changes to the process when someone ages 18 to 21 goes to buy a firearm and closes the so-called boyfriend loophole, a victory for Democrats, who have long fought for that.

The package amounts to the most significant new federal legislation to address gun violence since the expired 10-year assault weapons ban of 1994 — though it fails to ban any weapons and falls far short of what Democrats and polls show most Americans want to see.

The critical vote on the federal gun safety bill came on the same day as the Supreme Court struck down a New York gun law enacted more than a century ago that places restrictions on carrying a concealed handgun outside the home.

The ruling highlights the conflicting political forces surrounding the issue at all levels of government, as the judicial branch implements the widest expansion of gun rights in a decade, happening right as the legislative branch appears on track to pass its most significant gun safety package in almost 30 years.

A critical vote that requires GOP support: Thursday’s vote was held to overcome a GOP filibuster and required 60 votes to succeed, meaning that at least 10 Republicans needed to join with Democrats to vote in favor.

That was expected to happen, however, after 14 Republicans voted to advance the bill in an initial vote Tuesday evening.

Now that the Senate has broken a filibuster, the bill is on track for a final passage vote.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has called to pass the bill this week, though the exact timing of the final vote is still to be determined. The final Senate vote could come as early as Thursday if all 100 senators consent to a time agreement. It will take place at a simple majority threshold.

The House would next have to take up the bill before it can be signed into law. It is not yet clear how quickly the bill could move through both chambers, but if the Senate holds a final passage vote Thursday evening, the House could pass the measure soon after.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that if the Senate passes the gun safety bill on Thursday, the House will convene and pass it Thursday as well.

“We’ll try to do it today,” he said. “If they move it that quickly, we’ll get it done.”

Senate rules allow any one senator to slow down the process, and Schumer on Thursday called on Senate Republicans to work with Democrats to get the legislation passed “before the day is out.”

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