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US Senate passes gun control law, 1st in 3 decades

The legislation was passed in a 65-33 vote with 15 Republicans joining the 50 Democrats in a rare show of bipartisanship on gun control

Friday June 24, 2022 10:51 PM, IANS

US Gun Control Law

Washington: The US Senate passed a narrow legislation late Thursday that could go on to become the first gun control measure passed in more than three decades.

The legislation was passed in a 65-33 vote with 15 Republicans joining the 50 Democrats in a rare show of bipartisanship on gun control.

The measure must now be passed by the House of Representatives to make it to President Joe Biden's desk for his signature and enactment.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that the House of Representatives will take up the legislation on Friday. The Biden White House has already signaled the president's assent to the bill telling reporters he will sign it.


"This bill is a compromise," said Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, who led the negotiations, right before the vote.

"It doesn't do everything I want. But what we are doing will save thousands of lives without violating anyone's Second Amendment rights."

Legislation Details

The legislation makes a modest attempt at restricting access to guns. It expands background checks for prospective buyers between 18 and 21 - both the Buffalo and Uvalde shooters were 18; includes abusive dating partners in the list of those who could be prevented from buying guns; and, finally, it seeks to incentivise states to introduce red-flag laws that would allows law enforcement or relatives to prevent guns from falling in the hands of people who could harm either themselves or others.

School safety and mental health care

The bill also seeks to pump in $15 billion into school safety and mental health care.

"This is the sweet spot a making America safer, especially for kids in school, without making our country one bit less free," Mitch McConnell, the top Republican Senator said on the floor of the chamber.

"I thought it was time to act, and if (Democrats) were willing to join with us and pass legislation that actually targeted the problem, which is school safety and mental health, why would we not want to do that?"

The bipartisan legislation was negotiated by 10 Republican and 10 Democratic senators amidst national outrage triggered by the killing of 10 African Americans at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York and 19 children at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas just 10 days apart.

'Tonight, we acted'

President Joe Biden reacted to the passage saying:

"Tonight, after 28 years of inaction, bipartisan members of Congress came together to heed the call of families across the country and passed legislation to address the scourge of gun violence in our communities. Families in Texas and Buffalo -- and too many tragic shootings before -- have demanded action. And tonight, we acted."

"This bipartisan legislation will help protect Americans. Kids in schools and communities will be safer because of it. The House of Representatives should promptly vote on this bipartisan bill and send it to my desk," Biden added.

Opposition to SC ruling striking down NY state gun law

Taking exception to the SC ruling, Biden said it contradicts both common sense and the Constitution, and should deeply trouble all.

"In the wake of the horrific attacks in Buffalo and Uvalde, as well as the daily acts of gun violence that do not make national headlines, we must do more as a society -- not less -- to protect our fellow Americans," he said in a statement.

"I urge states to continue to enact and enforce common sense laws to make their citizens and communities safer from gun violence," he added.

"It is outrageous that at a moment of national reckoning on gun violence, the Supreme Court has recklessly struck down a New York law that limits those who can carry concealed weapons," NY Governor Kathy Hochul tweeted.

"In response to this ruling, we are closely reviewing our options -- including calling a special session of the legislature. Just as we swiftly passed nation-leading gun reform legislation, I will continue to do everything in my power to keep New Yorkers safe from gun violence," she added.

'Ruling could be counter productive'

New York City's Democrat Mayor Eric Adams warned that the ruling would allow for more guns on the streets and put residents at risk.

"We have been preparing for this decision and will continue to do everything possible to work with our federal, state, and local partners to protect our city. Those efforts will include a comprehensive review of our approach to defining 'sensitive locations' where carrying a gun is banned, and reviewing our application process to ensure that only those who are fully qualified can obtain a carry license," he said in a statement.

"We will work together to mitigate the risks this decision will create once it is implemented, as we cannot allow New York to become the Wild West," he said ahead of a public press conference.

Mass shootings in US

Mass shootings in the US have nearly tripled since 2013, according to official data available.

The US' leading news network ABC News talked to experts who examine America's history with guns, the real-life impacts of gun violence and what can be done going forward to mitigate the problem.

The Senate had voted on Thursday to cut off debate on the bill, which was crafted amid a disturbing uptick in shootings across the US. The same 15 Republicans had sided with all 50 members of the Democrat caucus to clear the procedural hurdle.

Senate rules generally require 30 additional hours of debate after the cloture vote, but Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he wanted to get unanimous agreement to dismiss that requirement and hold a final vote on Thursday. On Wednesday, Republicans had encouraged members to vote against the gun safety package.

"The bill throws emergency supplemental federal spending at states to encourage implementation of red flag laws and dramatically increases funding for numerous other grant programs, but the bill's vague language contains insufficient guardrails to ensure that the money is actually going towards keeping guns out of the hands of criminals or preventing mass violence," Republican whip Steve Scalise's office wrote in a memo to Republican lawmakers, accessed by ABC News.

The Supreme Court said on Thursday that Americans have a right to carry guns in public in a major expansion of gun rights while overturning a centuries old legislation of the New York state.

Key aspects of the legislation

Key aspects of the Bipartisan legislation include expanded federal background checks for buyers under the age of 21, financial incentives for states to pass "red flag" laws and other intervention programmes and closing the so-called "boyfriend loophole".

Both Schumer and Senate Minority Leader McConnell backed the legislation -- which was hammered out by a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the weeks after the tragic shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

"This bipartisan gun-safety legislation is progress and will save lives. While it is not everything we want, this legislation is urgently needed," Schumer had said earlier this week.

Public Outrage against the legislation

Even as the Senate passed the Safer Communities Act, public outrage had built up across the country from Washington to New York, key states which have strict gun laws on sale and purchase of guns and red flag laws that can help law enforcement authorities to confiscate weapons of destruction from people considered to be a danger to themselves and people at large.

The protesters lined up outside the Capitol Hill to protest the Supreme Court verdict that voted 6-3 with majority of them being conservatives who argued that no law should infringe on the 2nd amendment to the Constitution of 1791 which permitted citizens to carry weapons concealed on them to public places considered sensitive areas. Democrat politicians argued in futility that such laws could not be absolute even as SC held that the NY gun laws were too restrictive.

The House and Senate are to begin their two-week July 4 recess after Friday.

The Senate's passage of bipartisan gun law was a victory for Senator Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona, who helped negotiate the bill.


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