Exclusive: Senator Tim Kaine says a key piece of new gun bill would dramatically reduce shootings
Senator Tim Kaine speaking with supporters at a campaign rally. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) compared the new gun safety legislation to seat-belt laws, saying that both laws aren't likely to stop all fatalities but they'll help.

Speaking to Raw Story on Wednesday afternoon, Kaine noted that the "straw man purchase" was back in the bill after it had been previously taken out.

The legislation would crack down on illegal purchases of guns through other individuals to circumvent background checks and enact new rules for purchasers under 18. Last week, a man was arrested in Dallas for the illegal trafficking of almost 100 guns, some of which were used in north Texas shootings. There are laws already in place to help reduce weapons trafficking, but the Senate bill aims to raise the penalties for such tactics.

"It would dramatically reduce [the problem]," said Kaine. "There is nothing that we're going to do that will end it, but it's like a seatbelt does in every traffic fatality it makes rider safe. And, look, that's one of the more underreported pieces of the compromise. More intense background analysis of 18-21 year-olds including juvenile records."

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He went on to cite the mental health piece of the bill, saying it was "fantastic," particularly after the COVID-19 crisis. Kaine proposed a bill that was passed in Feb. 2022 that helped fund mental health resources for healthcare workers who have been overworked and emotionally devastated after facing so much death with the pandemic.

As Kaine explained, the gunman responsible for the Virginia Tech shooting was previously diagnosed with selective mutism and severe depression. The laws on the books currently mandate that a person be officially institutionalized before they can be prevented from purchasing a gun. It makes the mental health restrictions considerably higher. Virginia changed their laws after the shooting, eliminating the loopholes that would allow those adjudicated as mentally unsound to purchase guns.

The mental health piece of the bill will be a big test for Republicans, who have said for decades that mass shootings are all related to mental health issues.

With additional reporting from Matt Laslo.