Overshadowed, perhaps, by the Supreme Court’s historic decision on abortion, the U.S. House last Friday approved the most significant gun control legislation in a generation, determined to “do something” in the wake of several high profile mass shootings that occurred in May.
President Biden signed the bipartisan Safer Communities Act into law Saturday.
Related Story: Biden Signs Gun Measure, Says ‘Lives Will Be Saved’
“Their message to us was, 'do something',” said Biden at the signing ceremony, referring the people of Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children were killed at an elementary school. “Well today, we did. While this bill doesn't do everything I want. It does include actions I've long called for that are going to save lives.”
The final vote in the House was 234-193, with 13 Republicans voting in favor. In the Senate, 15 Republicans joined the Democrats in supporting the bill.
All seven members of Oklahoma’s delegation voted against the measure.
“My constituents certainly support additional money for school security, and my constituents also support providing additional funds for mental health,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK4) in remarks before the House Rules Committee Friday morning. “But this bill goes much further than that, and ultimately, what most House Republicans cannot and will not do is support additional restrictions on the Second Amendment, which is what the package before us will actually accomplish.”
But some of the legislation's strongest support came from Republicans who also have histories of opposing any significant infringement on the Second Amendment.
"I don't believe in doing nothing in the face of what we saw in Uvalde and we've seen in far too many communities," said Texas Senator John Cornyn, one of the architects of the compromise bill.
The $13 billion measure will enhance background checks for gun buyers that are under the age of 21, make it more difficult for domestic abusers to purchase a firearm, and incentivize states to pass red flag laws by including $750 million for mental health crisis intervention programs.
"I have serious concerns about the lack of due process in place for gun owners," said Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-OK5). "Furthermore, in my home state of Oklahoma, it is illegal to implement red flag laws. Due to this provision, taxpayer money from hardworking Oklahomans would flow to states with less stringent Second Amendment protections."
"Oklahoma has made it clear." said Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK3) in a statement, "Oklahomans believe in the fundamental right to bear arms."
Interestingly, a recent survey of Oklahoma Republicans conducted by SoonerPoll shows that nearly half — 43 percent — feel that additional gun control measures are needed to reduce gun violence in Oklahoma.