23rd June, 2022
A bipartisan package of modest gun safety measures advanced in the U.S. Senate on Thursday weeks after successive mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, killed more than 30 people, including 19 children.
The Senate bill, which supporters say would save lives, aims to tighten background checks for would-be gun purchasers convicted of domestic violence or significant crimes as juveniles.
But it does not include more sweeping gun control measure favored by Democrats including President Joe Biden such as a ban on assault-style rifles or high-capacity magazines.
The Senate voted 65-34 to advance the gun safety package toward a final vote on passage that could come later in the day or on Friday.
The vote sets the clock ticking for up to 30 hours of debate. Democrats urged Republicans to agree to expedite the process.
The Senate action also came weeks after an impassioned speech by Biden, in which he declared “enough” of gun violence and urged lawmakers to act.
Polls show that majorities of Americans support some new limits on firearms, demands that typically rise following mass shootings like those that 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 to be dangerous and tighten background checks for would-be gun purchasers convicted of domestic violence or significant crimes as juveniles.
More than 20,800 people have died from gun violence in the United States so far in 2022, including through homicide and suicide, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit research group.
“This is not the cure-all for all the ways gun violence affects our nation. But it is a long overdue step in the right direction. It’s significant and it is going to save lives,” top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said in a floor speech.
In the Senate, Republican backers of the new gun safety bill SAID that the measure does not erode the rights of law-abiding gun owners, who are among their most ardent constituents.
“It does not so much as touch the rights of the overwhelming majority of American gun owners, who are law-abiding citizens of sound mind,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who backs the legislation.
The bill provides funding to help states adopt “red flag” laws to keep firearms out of the hands of those deemed a danger to themselves or others. It would also fund alternative intervention measures in state where red flag laws are opposed and provide for enhanced school security.
It closes the “boyfriend loophole” by denying gun purchases to those convicted of abusing intimate partners in dating relationships, and allows states to add juvenile criminal and mental health records to national background check databases.
Senator John Cornyn, the lead Republican negotiator on the bill, was booed last week as he discussed its contents during a speech before a Republican Party convention in his home state of Texas.