US Senate passes gun safety bill as SC scraps handgun limits
WASHINGTON: A bipartisan package of modest gun safety measures passed the US Senate on Thursday night, even as the Supreme Court vastly expanded gun rights by ruling that Americans have the constitutional right to carry handguns in public for self-defense.
The historic court ruling and Senate action on gun safety illustrates the deep division on 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.
“This bipartisan legislation will help protect Americans. Children in schools and communities will be safer because of this,” President Joe Biden said after the vote. “The House of Representatives should vote quickly on this bipartisan bill and send it to my office.”
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 Biden, such as banning assault rifles or high-capacity magazines.
“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 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 United States Constitution.
In the Senate vote Thursday night, 15 Republicans joined 50 Democrats in voting for the bill.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi applauded the bill’s passage and said in a statement it would advance to the House on Friday, with a vote to come as soon as possible.
House Republicans had asked their members to vote against the bill, although since the house is controlled by Democrats, their support was not needed for the bill to pass.
Biden will sign the bill.
The Senate action came weeks after an impassioned speech by Biden, in which he declared “enough” gun violence and urged lawmakers 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.
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 chief Democratic negotiator on gun safety legislation, said in an interview.
“I am deeply concerned about the court’s desire to strip elected bodies of the ability to protect our constituents and that has serious implications for the security of our country,” said Murphy, whose home state of Connecticut, where 26 people were killed. in a 2012 shooting at an elementary school.
Conservatives advocate a broad reading of the Second Amendment, which they say limits most new restrictions on gun purchases.
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.
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.
The Supreme Court ruling, written by conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, said the Constitution protects “an individual’s right to carry a handgun in self-defence outside of his or her home.”
“This is a monumental victory for NRA members and gun owners across the country,” Jason Ouimet, executive director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement. .
“This decision opens the door to rightly changing the law in the remaining seven states that still do not recognize the right to carry a firearm for personal protection.”
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.
“It does not so much affect the rights of the overwhelming majority of American gun owners, who are sane, law-abiding citizens,” said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who supports the legislation.
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 the purchase of firearms to those convicted of abusing intimate partners in romantic relationships, although if they have no other convictions or sanctions, 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.