The Senate on Thursday easily approved a bipartisan gun violence bill that seemed unthinkable just a month ago, clearing the way for final congressional approval of what will be lawmakers’ most far-reaching response in decades to the nation’s run of brutal mass shootings.
After years of GOP procedural delays that derailed Democratic efforts to curb firearms, Democrats and some Republicans decided that congressional inaction was untenable after last month’s rampages in New York and Texas. It took weeks of closed-door talks but a group of senators from both parties emerged with a compromise embodying incremental but impactful movement to curb bloodshed that has come to regularly shock — yet no longer surprise — the nation.
Amid raging incidents of gun violence in the US, the Senate has passed a gun control bill for the first time in 28 years, the media reported on Friday. Late Thursday night, 15 Republicans joined Democrats in the upper chamber of Congress to approve the measure by 65 votes to 33, reported a news agency.
The bill will next have to clear the House of Representatives before President Joe Biden can sign it into law. The new legislation includes a series of measures, such as tougher background checks for customers younger than 21 years; $15 billion in federal funding for mental health programmes and school security upgrades; calls for funding to encourage states to implement “red flag” laws to remove firearms from people considered a threat; and closes the so-called “boyfriend loophole” by blocking gun sales to those convicted of abusing unmarried intimate partners.
Thursday’s development is also of significance as Democrats and Republicans have both equally supported proposed gun control for the first time in decades. The last significant federal gun control legislation was passed in 1994, banning the manufacture for civilian use of assault rifles and large-capacity magazines. But it expired a decade later.
Addressing the chamber late Thursday, Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn said the bill would “make Americans feel safer”, adding that “doing nothing is an abdication of our responsibility as representatives of the American people here in the US Senate”.
However, the National Rifle Association (NRA, the country’s most powerful gun lobby group, has opposed the bill). The passing of the bill came hours after the Supreme Court struck down a New York state law that limits gun-carrying in public.
The 6-3 ruling found that New York’s requirement for residents to prove “proper cause”, or a good reason, to carry concealed firearms in public violates the US Constitution. An individual who wants to carry a firearm outside his home may obtain an unrestricted license to “have and carry” a concealed “pistol or revolver” if he can prove that “proper cause exists” for doing so, says the ruling.