The United States Senate approved a bipartisan package of modest gun-safety measures as the nation’s Supreme Court broadened gun rights by ruling that Americans have a constitutional right to carry guns in public for self-defense.
Thursday’s Senate move and Supreme Court ruling, pushed through by the conservative majority, illustrate deep divisions over firearms in the US, weeks after mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York, left more than 30 people. killed, including 19 children.
The Senate bill, passed by 65-33 votes, is the first major gun control legislation passed in three decades, in a country with the highest gun ownership per capita in the world and the highest number of mass shootings per year among wealthy nations. .
About 15 Republicans joined all 50 Democrats to vote for the bill.
“This bipartisan legislation will help protect Americans. Children in schools and communities will be safer as a result,” President Joe Biden said after the vote. “The House of Representatives should immediately vote on this bipartisan bill and send it to my desk.”
The bill, which supporters say will save lives, is modest. The main restriction on gun ownership would sharpen background checks for potential gun buyers convicted of domestic violence or serious crimes as minors.
Republicans refused to compromise on more drastic gun control measures favored by Democrats, including Biden, such as bans on assault-style rifles or high-capacity magazines.
“This isn’t a panacea for how gun violence affects our nation, but it’s a step in the right direction that was long overdue,” Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer said on the floor ahead of the vote.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi applauded the bill’s approval and said in a statement it would go into the House Friday, with a vote coming as soon as possible. House Republicans had instructed their members to vote against the bill, although their support was not necessary for the bill to pass, as the chamber is controlled by Democrats. Biden will sign the bill.
The Supreme Court ruling earlier Thursday lifted New York state’s restrictions on carrying concealed handguns outdoors.
The court ruled that the law, enacted in 1913, violated a person’s right to “have and bear arms” under the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Democrats warned Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling could have serious implications for gun security across the country.
“The Supreme Court got its ruling wrong,” Senator Chris Murphy, the lead Democratic negotiator on gun laws, said in an interview.
“I am deeply concerned about the court’s willingness to deprive elected bodies of the ability to protect our voters 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 defend a broad reading of the Second Amendment, which they say limits most of the 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 for would-be gun buyers convicted of domestic violence or serious crimes as minors.
The bill provides funding to help states pass “red flag” laws to keep firearms out of the hands of those deemed a danger to themselves or others. It would also fund alternative interventions in states where the red flag laws are opposed and increase school safety.
It closes the “friend in the law” by refusing gun purchases to those convicted of abusing intimate partners in dating relationships, although if they have no further convictions or penalties, they may buy them again.
It also allows states to add juvenile crime and mental health records to national background check databases.
In the Senate, Republican supporters of the new gun safety law said the measure would not affect the rights of law-abiding gun owners, who are among their most ardent voters.
“It doesn’t affect the rights of the vast majority of American gun owners, who are law-abiding citizens with common sense,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who supports the legislation.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit research group, more than 20,800 people were killed in US gun violence, including murder and suicide, in 2022.