Idaho delegation votes no as Congress passes gun safety bill

Congress passed a bipartisan gun safety bill this week — without support from Idaho’s Republican congressional delegation.

The Senate passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act Thursday on a 65-33 vote, and the House followed suit Friday, on a 234-193 vote. President Biden signed the bill Saturday, according to CNN.

Supporters have said the bill is the most significant gun legislation to pass Congress in years. The House vote came exactly one month after a mass shooting in an Uvalde, Texas, elementary school left 19 school children and two teachers dead.

The bill expands background checks for people under age 21 who are seeking to buy a firearm; the attacker in the Uvalde shooting was 18 years old.

The bill also includes $15 billion for mental health and school safety programs, the Washington Post reported.

Saying the legislation “would help make our schools safer,” the Biden administration has singled out the $1 billion that would go toward creating “safe and healthy learning environments for all students,” including summer and before- and afterschool programs, and $300 million for training and tools to help prevent future school shootings.

The bill also sets aside up to $750 million to help states implement so-called “red flag laws,” designed to keep guns out of the hands of people who a court has deemed a threat to other people, or to themselves.

(More details on the bill from CNN and Ballotpedia.)

Here, in full, are statements from the Idaho delegation:

Sen. Mike Crapo: “We need to address the driving factors behind heinous acts of gun violence, which often come down to shortcomings in our mental health system. As ranking member of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, I have been working with committee members on policies to improve our mental health system, several of which were incorporated into the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. These policies, which expand access to essential care by supporting telehealth options and creating more sites of service, are the types of bipartisan, targeted solutions that address root causes of gun violence.

“However, I have serious concerns with federal funds being used to help states establish ‘red flag laws.’ The Idaho Legislature already pushed back on federal overreach through ‘red-flag laws’ and other regulatory efforts by passing the ‘Idaho Firearm and Firearm Accessories and Components Protection Act’ in 2021, which prevents all Idaho government entities from enforcing executive orders, federal laws, treaties, agency orders and rules of the U.S. government involving firearms, firearm components and accessories, or ammunition that conflict with the Idaho Constitution. I support Idaho’s leadership in upholding the Second Amendment, as I commend those working to address violence in our communities to keep students safe.”

Sen. Jim Risch: “Senseless acts of violence that result in the loss of innocent lives cannot be tolerated. However, infringing on Americans’ constitutional rights is not the answer to the challenges before us.

“This bill’s weak due process protections and its provisions to funnel federal tax dollars towards facilitating state-level gun confiscation orders – so-called ‘red flag laws’ – will erode citizens’ Second Amendment rights.

“Violent crime has no place in our communities, and we should continue to work toward solutions that keep schools and communities safe while upholding the rights of the American people.”

Rep. Mike Simpson: “Like most Americans, I am shocked and devastated by recent horrific acts of senseless violence. This is not an acceptable status quo, and we must do better for our children. Our country is facing a devastating mental health crisis that is tearing through our schools and communities, and we must do more to meet this moment of despair and isolation.

“Unfortunately, while the legislation crafted in the Senate includes several provisions I support, such as expanding telehealth access and updating mental health billing guidance for schools, it also includes unacceptable language aimed at chipping away law-abiding citizens’ Second Amendment rights. I am particularly concerned with the provisions that pave the way towards universal background checks and create waiting periods for some adults to purchase firearms. Ultimately, the answer to solving the root causes of violent crime will not be found in legislation that erodes constitutional rights. Instead, the Senate should immediately take up the bipartisan H.R. 7666, Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act, which passed with my support earlier this week and would provide more Americans with access to life-saving mental health resources.”

Rep. Russ Fulcher: “The Senate Gun Control Act curtails Americans’ due process rights and singles out law-abiding citizens under 21 for additional restrictions. As the Supreme Court has affirmed time after time, including as recently as (Thursday), we have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms. I oppose this legislation and voted NO.”


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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