U.S. senators introduced a bipartisan bill Thursday night on the nation-shaking gun violence epidemic, approving a narrow set of new gun restrictions and billions of dollars in funding for mental health and safety school.
The reforms – which will almost certainly be approved by the House of Representatives on Friday – fall short of the demands of gun safety advocates and President Joe Biden, but have been hailed as a vital breakthrough after nearly 30 years. of Congressional inaction.
The bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which was backed by all 50 Democratic senators and 15 Republicans, includes enhanced background checks for buyers under 21, $11 billion in mental health funding and $2 billion dollars for school safety programs.
It also provides funding to encourage states to implement “red flag” laws to remove firearms from people deemed a threat.
And it closes the so-called “boyfriend” loophole, under which domestic abusers could avoid a gun ban if they weren’t married or living with their victim.
“Tonight, the United States Senate is doing something many thought impossible just a few weeks ago: We are passing the first significant gun safety bill in nearly 30 years,” the Majority Leader said. Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer after the legislation passed.
“The gun safety bill we pass tonight can be described with three adjectives: bipartisan, common sense, life-saving.”
His Republican counterpart Mitch McConnell said the legislation would make America safer “without making our country a little less free”.
“This is a common sense package. Its provisions are very, very popular. It contains no new restrictions, no new waiting periods, no mandates and no prohibitions of any kind for owners of ‘law abiding firearms.’
The National Rifle Association and many Republicans in both houses of Congress have opposed the bill, but it is endorsed by advocacy groups working in the areas of policing, domestic violence and mental illness.
The Senate and House are on a two-week recess starting next week, but the Democratic-controlled House is expected to approve the Senate bill with little drama before members leave town Friday night.
This breakthrough is the work of a group of cross-party senators who worked out the details and worked out the differences for weeks.
Lawmakers had been scrambling to wrap up negotiations quickly enough to capitalize on the momentum generated by the fatal shooting of 19 children in Uvalde, Texas, and 10 black people at a supermarket in Buffalo, upstate New York, both last month.
Chris Murphy, the senator leading the negotiations for the Democrats, hailed a “historic day”.
“This will become the most significant gun violence legislation Congress has passed in three decades,” he told the Senate.
“This bill also has the chance to prove to the weary American public that democracy is not so broken, that it is capable of rising up to the moment.”
The last major federal gun control legislation was passed in 1994, introducing a nationwide background check system and banning the civilian manufacture of assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
But it expired a decade later and there has been no serious movement for reform since, despite rising gun violence.
Biden had been pushing for more substantial reforms, including reinstating the ban on assault rifles — which have been used in both Texas and New York shootings — and high-capacity magazines.
But the political challenge of legislating in a 50-50 Senate, where most bills require 60 votes to pass, means broader reforms are unrealistic.
“The day after the Uvalde tragedy, the US Senate had to make a choice,” Schumer added.
“We could go to an impasse…Or we could choose to try to forge a bipartisan path to passing a real bill, as difficult as that may seem to many.”
The vote was a boon for gun safety activists hours after they were appalled by a Supreme Court ruling that Americans have a basic right to carry a handgun in public.
The 6-3 ruling struck down a more than century-old New York law that required a person to prove they had a legitimate need for self-defense to receive a permit to carry a concealed handgun in the exterior of the house.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)