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Landmark Gun Bill Has Billions for Mental Health

Rod Lamkey /CNP/Sipa USA/Reuters
By Michael Rainey
Friday, June 24, 2022

A momentous Friday as the Supreme Court announced that it has overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established the constitutional right to abortion. "We hold that Roe … must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision," the majority wrote in a ruling that will likely reverberate for years to come.

Here's what else is happening:

Congress Passes Landmark Gun Control Bill, With Billions for Mental Health

On the heels of a 65-33 vote in the Senate Thursday night, the House voted 234-193 Friday to approve the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which supporters hail as the most substantial gun control legislation in decades. The bill now awaits President Joe Biden’s signature.

All Democratic lawmakers supported the bill. Fifteen Republicans in the Senate voted yes, but the majority were opposed, as were all but 15 Republicans in the House, where GOP leaders charged that the legislation is a threat to the Second Amendment. Former President Trump warned Republican lawmakers that a vote in favor of the bill would be a "career-ending move."

Quickly written in the wake of recent mass shootings in New York and Texas, the gun control package provides about $15 billion in spending, with more than half of that going towards mental health programs. The bill is fully paid for, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and would reduce the deficit by $154 million over a decade. A congressional aide told The Hill that "the legislation is paid for by delaying the implementation for one year of a Trump-era rule relating to eliminating the anti-kickback statute safe harbor protection for prescription drug rebates."

Here’s what the bill will do:

* Impose more extensive background checks lasting up to 10 days on gun buyers between the ages of 18 and 21. Those with juvenile court records or mental health problems will be denied and have their applications turned over to the FBI. The enhanced background check requirement will expire after 10 years.

* Provide $750 million for states to establish or enhance "red flag" laws that allow officials to take guns from those determined to be a threat. Alternatively, states can opt to use the funds for crisis intervention efforts.

* Close the "boyfriend loophole" by expanding the circle of people who are banned from buying guns due to previous domestic violence charges.

* Impose tougher penalties on those who buy guns for anyone who is banned from owning firearms.

* Provide billions of dollars to school and community mental health programs, as well as school safety efforts.

In comments Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) summed up the feelings of many supporters of the bill. "It’s not everything we want, we must keep working toward universal background checks … but this will save lives," she said. "Maybe not so much a giant, but a small step forward."

Quote of the Week

"The disinflationary forces of the last quarter-century have been replaced, at least temporarily, by a whole different set of forces. The real question is: How long will this new set of forces be sustained? We can’t know that. But in the meantime, our job is to find maximum employment and price stability in this new economy."

— Federal Reserve Chair Jay Powell, testifying before a Senate committee Wednesday. Many are interpreting his comments as saying that the Fed intends to slow the economy to reduce demand to the level that can be satisfied even by today’s disrupted supply chains, while accepting the growing risk that such an effort could produce a recession.

Writing about the Fed’s more hawkish stance, Jeanna Smialek of The New York Times highlights the risk. "If the Fed determines that shocks are unlikely to ease — or will take so long that they leave inflation elevated for years — the result could be an even more aggressive series of rate increases as policymakers try to quash demand into balance with a more limited supply of goods and services. That painful process would ramp up the risk of a recession that would cost jobs and shutter businesses."

Covid Vaccines Saved Nearly 20 Million Lives in First Year: Analysis

More than 4.3 billion people received vaccinations for Covid-19 in the first 12 months of the treatment’s availability, and according to a new study published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, the vaccination effort saved about 19.8 million lives during that first year.

A team of researchers led by Oliver Watson of Imperial College London used data from 185 countries to model the course of the disease without the existence of vaccines. The results of the analysis indicate that the vaccines saved more than 4 million lives in India, 1 million in Brazil and half a million in the U.K. For the United States, the estimate of lives saved came to 1.9 million.

The researchers said their analysis was limited by several unknown factors, including the way that Covid-19 would have mutated in the absence of vaccines. It was also impossible to estimate how different populations would have reacted to the disease as it dragged on without an available vaccine. A more conservative analysis of the data, which relied only on the official Covid death count while ignoring excessive mortality, produced a global total of 14.4 million lives saved in the first year.

The researchers also noted that the vaccination effort around the globe was highly uneven, with poorer countries sharing much less of the benefit. "Although we did pretty well this time — we saved millions and millions of lives — we could have done better and we should do better in the future," Adam Finn of Bristol Medical School in England, who was not involved in the study, told the Associated Press.


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