WASHINGTON — Congress gave final approval Friday to a bipartisan compromise aimed at keeping dangerous people out of guns, ending nearly three decades of congressional inaction on how to address gun violence and to toughen national gun laws.
The House approved Measure 234-193 a month to the day after a gunman burst into an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and used a semi-automatic rifle to kill 19 children and two teachers, prompting outrage across the country and a flurry of negotiations on the US Parliament. The measure is now heading to President Biden, who is expected to sign it.
“This bipartisan legislation will help protect Americans,” he said in a statement late Thursday. “Children in schools and communities will be safer because of this.”
Galvanized by the horror of the Texas shooting, as well as a racist attack at a Buffalo supermarket that killed 10 people in May, lawmakers struck a deal that fell far short of sweeping gun control measures that Democrats had long demanded, but which was more expansive. than measures Republicans have been willing to consider in the past given their hostility to any measure that might restrict access to guns.
The legislation will improve background checks on potential gun buyers under the age of 21, for the first time requiring authorities to have time to review minors’ records, including mental health records from 16 years old.
It provides millions of dollars to states to implement so-called red flag laws that allow officials to temporarily confiscate firearms from people deemed by the court to be too dangerous to own them, as well as other programs intervention. And it reinforces the laws against the purchase of straw and the trafficking of arms.
Additionally, the measure provides more federal money to bolster mental health programs across the country and make schools safer. And the bill strengthens the federal ban on domestic abusers buying firearms, including recent or current serious dating partners, to close what is now called the boyfriend loophole.
“Our success today will never be the end of this fight, but it is a start,” said Rep. Lucy McBath, Democrat of Georgia, whose son was shot and killed by a white man at a gas station. service in 2012. She added, “It gives us hope. It gives hope to America. It gives our communities the hope that we desperately need and have been calling for for years and years and years.
Ms McBath then got emotional on the House floor, wiping away tears as she hugged her fellow Democrats and celebrated the passing of the legislation. Applause erupted in the chamber when it became clear the bill had won a majority of support.
The measure’s final passage came a day after 15 Republican senators joined Democrats in smashing a GOP filibuster to push the measure through the Senate, removing a hurdle that had proven insurmountable for most past efforts. to update gun laws after more gruesome mass shootings.
The House passed the measure with an equally narrow margin of Republican support, as top GOP leaders urged their members to oppose the measure as a threat to the Second Amendment. Only 14 Republicans voted in favor of the legislation, joining all Democrats. Five of those Republicans are retiring and one, Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina, recently lost his primary to a Trump-backed challenger.
“As a mother and a constitutional conservative, I am proud to support this common sense bill that will protect our children and limit violence without undermining the rights of law-abiding Second Amendment citizens,” said Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming. , who was largely ostracized from her party for her role on the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot. “Nothing in the bill restricts the rights of responsible gun owners. Period.”
But the majority of Republicans have remained unmoved by their colleagues’ efforts to emphasize the narrow scope of the gun provisions and the investment in mental health resources.
“Today they’re coming after our Second Amendment freedoms, and who knows what tomorrow will be,” Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the Judiciary Committee’s top Republican, said of Democrats.
Rep. Rodney Davis, Republican of Illinois, recalled a shooting at a baseball diamond in Virginia that left Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the Republican whip, seriously injured and how he wished he had a gun with him to protect themselves that day.
“The actions on the ground that day reinforced my support for the Second Amendment,” Davis said.
The measure’s final approval came after the Supreme Court struck down a New York state law that restricted where gun owners could bring a gun outside the home, a decision that threw a veil over some Democrats who were delighted with the success of the gun bill after decades of congressional failure on the issue.
“I was really in a state of elation about what happened in the United States Senate yesterday – counterpoint to the dangerous decision by this Trumpian Supreme Court that they made yesterday,” the president said. Nancy Pelosi of California, during her weekly press conference on Friday.
Even as some Democrats complained the measure fell short of their ambitions to ban the sale of high-capacity magazines or raise the purchase age for assault weapons, she encouraged lawmakers to back the measure. as a substantial step forward towards these goals. Dressed in an orange pantsuit – the color of gun reform activists, which was visible from the Democratic side of the chamber – Ms. Pelosi personally closed the vote.
“As I tell members all the time with legislation, don’t judge it for what it isn’t, but respect it for what it is,” Ms Pelosi added. “There is a lot to respect in this legislation.”
The compromise was reached by a small group of Republican and Democratic senators, including Senators Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, both Democrats, and John Cornyn of Texas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, all two Republicans.