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'I think it will make a difference': UofL law expert on bipartisan gun reform law

A University of Louisville law professor weighs in on what's being touted as a landmark piece of legislation containing sweeping gun reform measures.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — President Joe Biden signed the first bipartisan gun control bill that the U.S. has seen in decades, into law Saturday.

Coming out of a U.S. Congress usually in gridlock, it's a bipartisan compromise many thought unimaginable.

"It is important, that in an era in which we see Congress so rarely accomplishing much of anything, because of polarization, that they were able to get a bipartisan gun bill, one of the most controversial areas in our politics, through Congress," Sam Marcosson, a professor of law at the University of Louisville, said.

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act passed the lower chamber by a vote of 234-193, before heading to Biden's desk.

Efforts to get it passed were ignited in the wake of recent mass shootings in Buffalo, NY, and Uvalde, TX. 

The bill enhances background checks for gun buyers 21 years of age, provides billions for mental health services and closes the so-called "boyfriend loophole" to prevent convicted domestic abusers from purchasing a firearm for five years. 

The plan also provides $750 million in grants to incentivize states to start crisis intervention programs, clarifies the definition of a federally licensed firearms dealer and creates penalties for straw purchases and gun trafficking.

While some feel its a strong effort by lawmakers to curb gun violence across the country, many gun-reform activists feel the measures don't go far enough.

"I think it's easy to both make too much of the legislation and dismiss it too easily," Marcosson said.

His research and writing is concentrated on constitutional law – specifically the 14th Amendment – and the civil rights issues.

Marcosson applauds many of the law's key provisions like its enforcement of enhanced background checks and its role in getting rid of the boyfriend loophole.

"So given that we understand that not every domestic relationship involves people who are married to one another, protecting those people who are in domestic partner situations, those kinds of relationships makes all the sense in the world," he said.

Most of all, Marcosson sees the law's most critical piece as the measures to put in place red flag laws. This makes it easier for authorities to take weapons from people considered to be dangerous.

Currently, 17 U.S. states and Washington D.C. have some form of a red flag law. Indiana is one of them. 

Marcosson sees it as a measure that could also benefit Kentucky. 

"Those laws are important, because they go to the target, of where there is greatest risk," he said. "When people are in emotional crises, showing signs that they may be unstable, dealing with personal issues in their lives. Those are the people that we know, often present, the greatest risk of mass shootings."

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