A bipartisan package of modest gun safety measures passed the US Senate on Thursday night, even as the nation’s Supreme Court vastly expanded gun rights by ruling that Americans have the constitutional right to carry handguns in public for self-defense.
- The modest bill is the first major federal gun control legislation to pass in three decades
- Supreme Court ruling strikes down New York state limits on concealed handguns
- Democrats warn decision will have implications for gun safety nationwide
Landmark court ruling and concurrent Senate action on gun safety illustrates deep division over guns in the United States, weeks after mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo , in New York, killed more than 30 people, including 19 children.
The Senate bill, passed 65 to 33, is the first major gun control legislation to pass in three decades, in a country with the highest number of guns per capita in the world. and the highest number of mass shootings per year among rich countries.
“It’s not a panacea for how gun violence affects our nation, but it’s a long overdue step in the right direction,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. , before the vote.
The bill, which supporters say will save lives, is modest — its most significant restriction on gun ownership would tighten background checks on potential gun buyers convicted of domestic violence or serious crimes as minors.
Republicans have refused to compromise on more sweeping gun control measures favored by Democrats, including President Joe Biden, such as banning assault rifles or high-capacity magazines.
In the Senate vote Thursday night, 15 Republicans joined 50 Democrats in voting for the bill.
It will then go to the House of Representatives for approval, where Democrats have a majority, and it is expected to pass despite House Republicans asking their members to oppose it.
After the House passes, Mr. Biden will sign the bill.
The Senate action came weeks after an impassioned speech by Mr Biden, in which he declared “enough” gun violence and urged politicians to act.
Polls show a majority of Americans support new limits on guns, demands that typically increase in the wake of mass shootings like those that have occurred in Texas and New York.
The Senate’s 80-page bipartisan Safer Communities Act would encourage states to keep guns out of the hands of those deemed dangerous and tighten background checks on potential gun buyers convicted of violence domestic or serious crimes as minors.
Court strikes down limits on concealed handguns
The Supreme Court’s decision earlier Thursday, pushed by its conservative majority, overturned New York state limits on carrying concealed handguns outside the home.
The court found that the law, enacted in 1913, violated a person’s right to “keep and bear arms” under the Second Amendment to the US Constitution.
Democrats have warned that the Supreme Court’s decision on Thursday could have dire consequences for gun safety across the country.
“The Supreme Court got the decision wrong,” Sen. Chris Murphy, the top Democratic negotiator on gun safety legislation, said in an interview.
“I am deeply concerned about the court’s desire to deprive elected bodies of the ability to protect our constituents and this has serious implications for the security of our country,” said Senator Murphy, whose home state is Connecticut, where 26 people were killed in a 2012 elementary school shooting.
Conservatives advocate a broad reading of the Second Amendment, which they say limits most new restrictions on gun purchases.
NRA declares ‘monumental victory’
The Supreme Court ruling, written by conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, said the US Constitution protects “an individual’s right to carry a handgun in self-defence outside the home.”
“This is a monumental victory for NRA members and for gun owners across the country,” Jason Ouimet, executive director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement. communicated.
More than 20,800 people were killed in gun violence in the United States in 2022, including by homicide and suicide, according to Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit research group.
Bill does not erode gun rights: Republicans
In the Senate, Republican supporters of the new gun safety bill said the measure does not erode the rights of law-abiding gun owners, who are among their most ardent voters.
The bill provides funds to help states pass “red flag” laws to keep guns out of the hands of those deemed a danger to themselves or others.
It would also fund alternative response measures in states where red flag laws are opposed and provide enhanced school safety.
It closes the ‘boyfriend loophole’ by denying gun purchases to those convicted of abusing intimate partners in romantic relationships, though if they have no other convictions or penalties , they will be allowed to buy again.
It also allows states to add juvenile mental health and criminal health records to national background check databases.
Sen. John Cornyn, the lead Republican negotiator on the bill, was booed last week as he discussed its contents during a speech to a Republican Party convention in his home state of Texas.