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The US Senate advances landmark gun safety legislation

#Senate #advances #landmark #gun #safety #legislation

U.S. senators late Thursday introduced a bipartisan bill that addresses the gun violence epidemic that is rocking the country, approving a tight package of new firearm restrictions and billions of dollars in funding for mental health and school safety.

The reforms – which will almost certainly be approved by the House of Representatives on Friday – fall short of calls from gun safety advocates and President Joe Biden, but have been hailed as a life-saving breakthrough after nearly 30 years of Congressional inaction.

“This bipartisan legislation will help protect Americans,” Biden said in a statement shortly after the Senate vote. “Children in schools and communities will be safer as a result.”

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, supported by all 50 Democratic senators and 15 Republicans, includes expanded background checks for shoppers under the age of 21, $11 billion in mental health funding and $2 billion for school safety programs.

It also provides means to encourage states to implement “red flag” laws to remove firearms from those deemed a threat.

And it closes the so-called “boyfriend” loophole that allowed domestic abusers to circumvent a ban on buying firearms if they weren’t married or living with their victim.

“Tonight, the United States Senate is doing what many thought impossible just a few weeks ago: we are passing the first major gun safety bill in nearly 30 years,” said Chuck Schumer, Senate Majority Leader, after the bill passed .

“The Gun Safety Act we are passing tonight can be described in three adjectives: non-partisan, common sense, life-saving.”

Republican counterpart Mitch McConnell said the legislation would make America safer “without making our country a little less free.”

“This is a reasonable package. Its provisions are very, very popular. It contains zero new restrictions, zero new waiting periods, zero mandates, and zero bans of any kind on law-abiding gun owners.”

The National Rifle Association and many Republicans in both houses of Congress opposed the bill, but it has support from advocacy groups working in the fields of policing, domestic violence and mental illness.

The Senate and House of Representatives are on a two-week break starting next week, but the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives is expected to approve the Senate bill with little drama before members leave town on Friday night.

– ‘Historical Day’ –

The breakthrough is the work of a bipartisan group of senators who spent weeks tweaking the details and settling disputes.

Lawmakers had been scrambling to wrap up negotiations quickly enough to capitalize on momentum created by the fatal shootings of 19 children in Uvalde, Texas, and 10 black men at a convenience store in Buffalo, New York, both last month , had arisen.

Chris Murphy, the senator leading the negotiations for the Democrats, hailed a “historic day”.

“This will be the most significant piece of anti-gun violence legislation passed by Congress in three decades,” he said in the Senate.

“This law also has a chance to prove to the weary American public that democracy isn’t so broken that it’s able to rise up right now.”

The last significant federal gun control law was passed in 1994, establishing a national background check system and banning the manufacture of large-capacity assault rifles and ammunition magazines for civilian use.

But it expired a decade later, and since then, despite increasing gun violence, there has been no serious reform movement.

Biden had pushed for broader reforms, including a reinstatement of the ban on assault rifles – used in both the 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, means broader reforms are unrealistic.

“The morning after the Uvalde tragedy, the United States Senate faced a choice,” Schumer added.

“We could surrender to deadlock…

The vote was a boon for gun safety activists hours after they were dismayed by a Supreme Court ruling that Americans have a fundamental right to carry a handgun in public.

The 6-3 ruling overturned a more than hundred-year-old New York law that required a person to show they had a legitimate need for self-defense in order to receive a permit to carry a concealed handgun outside the home.

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