Murkowski votes for bipartisan gun safety bill as Sullivan votes ‘no’
JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski has voted for a gun safety bill that is expected to soon become law over opposition from the National Rifle Association.
She is one of 15 Republican senators who joined 50 Democrats in voting to pass the “Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.” Murkowski, who describes herself as a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, said the legislation is “responsive, responsible and that it is very targeted.”
“What we’re really trying to do is to ensure that our schools are safe, our kids are protected, without placing new restrictions on law-abiding gun owners,” she said.
Fellow Republican Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan voted against the bill on Thursday evening. He said through a prepared statement that it has been one of his top priorities to address the nation’s “mental health crisis,” and that he believes some of the provisions in this legislation could help address those challenges.
“However, the right to keep and bear arms is fundamental and guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, and I have repeatedly committed to Alaskans that I will not support any legislation that infringes on that right,” he said. “In that regard, I have serious concerns about the broad discretion this legislation leaves up to federal courts and Biden administration officials as it relates to the implementation and interpretation of the bill’s vaguely defined firearms restrictions and due process provisions. Alaska is unique. Alaskans use firearms for protection, hunting, subsistence, and recreation — and we take any infringement on our Second Amendment rights very seriously.”
On Thursday, Murkowski held a press conference where she tried to parse out what she described as the myths and facts about the bill. She said that Alaskans typically have an instinctive gut reaction to oppose any federal gun-related laws, but she urged them to look critically at this legislative effort for themselves.
The bill provides funding for schools, mental health and there would be enhanced background checks for young people between the ages of 18 and 20 who want to buy guns. Democrats have broadly supported a national “red flag” law, which would allow courts or police to temporarily confiscate a person’s guns if they pose a danger to themselves or others.
This bill does not implement a national red flag law, and contrary to reports in national media outlets, Murkowski says that this legislation does not incentivize states to implement their own versions.
“The ones that need to be worried about this measure passing are violent criminals and those who are adjudicated as mentally ill. That’s what we’re talking about,” she said.
The bill does aim to close “the boyfriend loophole.” People convicted of domestic violence offenses in serious “dating relationships” would be prohibited from buying guns, following the same existing federal restrictions for married couples, couples who have children together and couples who live together.
The NRA has given Murkowski an “A” rating based on her voting record and it endorsed her for reelection in 2016. But the powerful gun lobby has opposed this bill, saying it could be used to infringe on Second Amendment rights.
Murkowski disagrees. She said that the NRA has taken “a very, very, very hard view of anything that they may consider to be a slight, a slight, slight erosion of the Second Amendment.”
She noted that Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is a supporter of the bill and that he has an “A+” rating from the NRA. She then read from the gun lobby’s statement on the bipartisan gun safety bill.
“‘The NRA will support legislation that improves school security, promotes mental health services, and helps reduce violent crime.’ That’s exactly what this bill does,” Murkowski said.
Republican Kelly Tshibaka, who is running for the U.S. Senate in this year’s election, said Murkowski’s support of this bill would undermine the Second Amendment.
“We all agree that mental health is a problem that needs to be addressed, but I will never support legislation that restricts the rights of law-abiding Alaskans,” Tshibaka said through a prepared statement.
Pat Chesbro, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, suggested this effort doesn’t go far enough with its funding for mental health and schools. Chesbro’s daughter was killed in Michigan 11 years ago by a person with a handgun and she said she is concerned about guns with high-capacity magazines.
“I worry about everyone thinking they need to protect themselves,” Chesbro said.
The bipartisan gun safety legislation passed the Senate hours after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a New York law, which restricted concealed carry of firearms. It now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives. The New York Times has reported that it’s expected to quickly pass there onto President Joe Biden, who has pledged to sign it into law.
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