After Uvalde shooting, Congress wants to toughen gun laws

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America

Compromise on gun laws: Is sanity finally returning to the land of unlimited mass shootings?

Democratic and Republican senators agree to toughen gun laws. And while this declaration of intent does not represent a major breakthrough, it is an important step.

A memorial for the 19 children and 2 teachers murdered at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Eric Gay/UKTN

No one is really happy. Left-wing activists, who have campaigned for years to strengthen US federal gun laws, say, “This bill should be the beginning, not the end, of Congress’s work. And right-wing extremists are fuming: “Senators want to take the guns away from law-abiding Americans.

But perhaps this criticism is also an expression of the fact that the compromise negotiated by 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans in the Senate this weekend is not a pipe dream – because the congressmen on the left and on the right have had to make concessions .

Response to the massacres in New York and Texas

The framework agreement is a direct response to the rampages in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, in which two young men murdered 31 people in cold blood last month. The package envisions billions in investments with a focus on mental health and safe school facilities.

In the case of gun transactions, background checks should be enhanced if the gun buyer is under 21 years of age. Washington also wants to encourage all 50 states to pass “red flag” laws with the help of millions in grants. These regulations allow authorities to temporarily confiscate guns, revolvers or pistols in the event of warning signals from the environment of the gun owner. Experts say such “red flag” laws could not only prevent the next massacre, but also reduce the high number of suicides. In 2020 alone, more than 24,000 people in America committed suicide with a gun.

Prohibition of categories of individual weapons not capable of the majority

On the other hand, the package is silent on the prohibition of certain categories of weapons or on raising the minimum age for the purchase of weapons. These left-wing demands, which President Joe Biden recently made, cannot win a majority in the Senate due to outdated rules in the small chamber of parliament. Because in the Senate, a minority of 40 of the 100 deputies can block unpopular bills.

Republicans, who currently have 50 Senate seats, believe such bans or restrictions, which would primarily target AR-15 semi-automatic weapons, are unconstitutional. This point of view is, in principle, also shared by the Supreme Court. In a landmark 2008 decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Americans have the right to use a gun in self-defense.

Because of this basic attitude, which is also supported by gun lobbyists, all attempts to toughen gun laws in the Senate over the past few decades have failed. The last successful attempt to ban an entire category of weapons (so-called assault weapons, a term often translated into German as assault rifles) therefore dates back more than 25 years.

Democrats now seem to have accepted this fundamental Republican opposition. Your Senate negotiator, Chris Murphy of Connecticut, therefore did not enter the last round of negotiations with high hopes. “It’s difficult, but we want to save lives,” he said instead. His opponent, Texan Republican John Cornyn, was deeply saddened by the Uvalde massacre. Referring to political reality – in America there are more guns than people – he also warned against exaggerated expectations. Parliament must proceed “in stages”, he said.

As a next step, the 20 senators will now present a fully formulated bill. This should be available before the summer holidays; all 50 Democrats and at least 10 Republicans in the Senate must support the package for it to pass. The bill is then sent to the House of Representatives; in the grand chamber, Democrats currently hold 220 of the 435 seats.

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