[ODUNEWS] June 24 – The US Senate has passed a gun control bill – the most significant firearms legislation in nearly 30 years.
The bill would enhance background checks for gun purchasers younger than 21, provide money to administer “red-flag” laws, and crack down on straw buyers.
The bill came after mass shootings last month at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and a primary school in Uvalde, Texas, that left 31 people dead.
The reforms include:
- Tougher background checks for buyers younger than 21
- $15bn (£12.2bn) in federal funding for mental health programs and school security upgrades
- Funding to encourage states to implement “red flag” laws to remove firearms from people considered a threat
- Closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole” by blocking gun sales to those convicted of abusing unmarried intimate partners
President Biden has pushed for bigger reforms – including a ban on assault weapons, which were used in the Texas and Buffalo mass shootings – or at least an increase in the age at which they can be purchased.
The gunman in the Texas shooting is believed to have purchased two semi-automatic rifles days after turning 18.
The Senate bill, approved in a 65-33 vote, is the first significant gun control legislation to pass in three decades, in a country with the highest gun ownership per capita in the world and the highest number of mass shootings annually among wealthy nations.
The House of Representatives is expected to take up the bill soon.
The legislation came on the heels of a spate of mass shootings across the United States and amid public frustration with longtime political inaction.
A month ago, a gunman attacked an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, killing 19 children and two teachers and rocking the United States and the international community at large.
Ten days before the Uvalde massacre, a white male stormed a grocery store in Buffalo, New York State, and fatally shot 10 African Americans in the community.
“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,” US President Joe Biden responded in a statement Thursday night. “Families in Uvalde and Buffalo — and too many tragic shootings before — have demanded action.”
More than 20,900 people have died from gun violence across the United States and 279 mass shootings have been recorded in the country so far this year, according to the latest data from the nonprofit organization Gun Violence Archive. A mass shooting is characterized as an incident in which at least four people are killed or injured by gunfire, excluding the attacker.
On Thursday morning, the US Supreme Court struck down a New York state law that places restrictions on carrying a concealed handgun outside the home, a move likely to divide the nation further on the polarizing issue amid fierce debate.
The Supreme Court decision is “harmful and disturbing,” Jack Resneck Jr., president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement.
“Firearm violence is a public health crisis, and easier access to weapons and fewer restrictions on who can carry them — and where they can be carried — are dangerous steps in the wrong direction. Overturning decades of reasonable firearm regulations will cost more lives,” he said.
Democrats warned that the Supreme Court ruling on Thursday could have dire consequences for gun safety nationwide.
“The Supreme Court got the ruling wrong,” Senator Chris Murphy, the lead Democratic negotiator on the gun safety legislation, said in an interview.
“I’m deeply worried about the court’s willingness to take away from elected bodies the ability to protect our constituents and that has real grave implications for the safety of our country,” said Murphy, whose home state of Connecticut, where 26 people were killed in a 2012 shooting at an elementary school.