US Senate passes first gun control bill in decades

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The US Senate has passed a gun control bill – the most significant firearms legislation in nearly 30 years.

Fifteen Republicans joined Democrats in the upper chamber of Congress to approve the measure by 65 votes to 33.

It follows mass shootings last month at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and a primary school in Uvalde, Texas, that left 31 people dead.

The bill will now have to pass in the House of Representatives before President Biden can sign it into law.

In a statement released after the vote, the president called on members of the House to “promptly vote on this bipartisan bill and send it to my desk”.

“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,” Mr Biden said.

“Families in Uvalde and Buffalo — and too many tragic shootings before — have demanded action. And tonight, we acted.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has vowed to take the bill through the House quickly, despite Republican leader Kevin McCarthy urging his members to vote against the bill.

“First thing tomorrow morning, the Rules Committee will meet to advance this life-saving legislation to the floor,” Ms Pelosi said after the vote.

Although significant, the proposals fall far short of what many Democrats and activists have called for.

The reforms include tougher background checks for buyers younger than 21 and $15bn (£12.2bn) in federal funding for mental health programs and school security upgrades.

It also calls for funding to encourage states to implement “red flag” laws to remove firearms from people considered a threat.

And it closes the so-called “boyfriend loophole” by blocking gun sales to those convicted of abusing unmarried intimate partners.

The bill is also significant because it is the first time in decades that proposed reforms have received this level of support from both Democrats and Republicans. Historically, efforts to strengthen US gun laws have been blocked by the Republican party.

All 50 Democrats, including the party’s most conservative members, Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, were joined by deal-making Republicans, including the party’s Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and close Trump ally Lindsey Graham.

A host of traditionally conservative-leaning advocacy organizations, including the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, also backed the bill.

Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas, who co-led the negotiations with Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, said on the chamber floor that the bill would make Americans safer.

“I don’t believe in doing nothing in the face of what we saw in Uvalde and what we’ve seen in far too many communities,” Mr Cornyn said.

Source:bbc.com

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