US Senate passes gun control bill after decades

Jun 24, 2022: According to a report by AFP, US senators advanced a bipartisan bill late Thursday addressing the epidemic of gun violence convulsing the country, approving a narrow package of new firearms restrictions and billions of dollars in mental health and school security funding.

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which was backed by all 50 Democratic senators and 15 Republicans, includes enhanced background checks for buyers under the age of 21, $11 billion in funding for mental health and $2 billion for school safety programmes.

It also provides funding to incentivise states to implement “red flag” laws to remove firearms from people considered a threat.

“Tonight, the US Senate is doing something many believed was impossible even a few weeks ago: we are passing the first significant gun safety bill in nearly 30 years,” Senate Democratic majority leader Chuck Schumer said after the legislation passed.

“The gun safety bill we are passing tonight can be described with three adjectives: bipartisan, commonsense, lifesaving.”

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

The National Rifle Association in the US and many Republicans in both chambers of Congress opposed the bill but it is endorsed by advocacy groups working in policing, domestic violence and mental illness.

The lawmakers had been scrambling to finish the negotiations quickly enough to capitalise on the momentum generated by the fatal shooting of 19 children in Uvalde, Texas and of 10 Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo, upstate New York, both last month.

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

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

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

The 6-3 decision by the Supreme Court struck down a more than century-old New York law that required a person to prove they had a legitimate self-defense need to receive a permit to carry a concealed handgun outside the home.

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