The Senate passed a compromise gun safety bill Thursday in a 65-33 vote, marking a rare time lawmakers from both parties have responded to a wave of mass shootings with a legislation.
But the bill still falls short of what many proponents of gun reform want, such as a ban on assault weapons and a restriction on gun purchases to those under 21.
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These proposals enjoy broad public support, based on recent polls, but were not retained because a bipartisan group of senators reached a compromise.
The legislation, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, would expand background checks for 18- to 21-year-olds, prompt states to pass “red flag” laws and expand a federal law prohibiting domestic abusers from acquiring firearms. The legislation also provides funds for school safety and mental health.
The bill will now go to the House, which is expected to vote on the legislation on Friday. President Joe Biden has indicated he will sign it.
The senators, led by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), began talks shortly after the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in which a gunman killed 19 elementary students and two teachers. The shooter had been able to legally purchase two assault weapons on his 18th birthday.
Ironically, the passage of the legislation came on the same day the Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, expanded the rights of gun owners to carry concealed weapons outside the home. The court struck down a century-old New York law that required those seeking a concealed carry license to show they had a “legitimate cause,” or special purpose, for it.
Even though the Senate bill marked the first major piece of federal gun safety legislation in nearly 30 years, it was still opposed by the National Rifle Association and other gun rights advocates. fire.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) acknowledged that the bill “is not a panacea for all the ways gun violence affects our nation,” but he insisted that “it’s a step in the right direction” and that it “will save lives”.
President Joe Biden said in a statement, “The families of Uvalde and Buffalo – and too many tragic shootings before – have demanded action. And tonight, we acted. He said the legislation “will help protect Americans. Children in schools and communities will be safer because of this.
Murphy, who gave an impassioned speech in the Senate following the Uvlade massacre, wrote on Twitter: “I’m exhausted. And grateful.
After his call for legislation, there was considerable cynicism that Congress would take action to address gun violence, given the lack of response to so many other past mass shootings. After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, gun legislation stalled in the Senate after being stalled by the threat of filibuster.
But Murphy helped lead the talks in the Senate, and gun reform activists pressed Congress for action. Uvalde native Matthew McConaughey traveled to Capitol Hill and spoke at the White House about the need for legislation, though this bill also fell short of the proposals he had championed.
The last major piece of legislation to authorize the Senate was an assault weapons ban passed in 1994. But that restriction was allowed to expire a decade later, and sales of assault weapons, like the AR-15 , proliferated. The AR-15 has been used in mass shootings for the past decade.
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