Despite limited scope, US Senate gun control measures gain support

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Gun control advocates took part in a “March for Our Lives” protest on June 11.

Washington:

Two horrific massacres in the past few weeks have succeeded in bringing Democrats and Republicans closer to the most significant federal legislation on gun violence in the United States in three decades.

Twenty senators – 10 from each party – reached an agreement on Sunday to pass legislation that would tighten some rules on gun sales and devote more resources to mental health treatment.

The 10 Republicans is just enough for the legislation to overcome Senate rules that have allowed the party since the 1990s to block almost any measure aimed at controlling the flow of personal firearms into the US market.

Their deal comes less than a month after two shocking mass shootings: First, when 10 African Americans were killed on May 14 at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, then less than two weeks later, when 19 children and two teachers were shot dead. at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

These tragedies have also brought to light smaller but more frequent instances of gun violence in the United States.

Chris Coons, a Senate Democrat who led the chamber’s bipartisan effort, said the legislation could be introduced within days and possibly passed in early July.

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“In the wake of the recent horrific shootings in Buffalo, Uvalde and across the country, Americans demanded that the Senate take meaningful steps forward on this issue,” Coons said.

“This framework will save lives. If it becomes law, it will reduce the risk of mass shootings, fatal incidents of domestic violence, violence that we see too frequently on our streets.”

Modest measures

The measures agreed by the senators are modest and well below what US President Joe Biden called for in the wake of the tragic killings last month.

They understand:

– Enhanced background checks for people under 21 buying a firearm, allowing for a review of youth crime and mental health records

– Funding and incentives for states to pass “red flag” laws to keep guns out of the hands of people considered a danger to themselves or society, and perpetrators of domestic violence

– Tougher penalties for “fictitious buyers” of firearms for others who fuel the illegal firearms trade

– Closing regulatory gaps on arms dealers

– Federal support for state investments in school safety and mental health programs

But they did not address the demands of gun control advocates, including an outright ban on assault rifles, as was the case from 1994 to 2004, a ban on the sale of guns under 21, mandatory waiting periods for all firearm purchases, and high altitude bans. -capacity stores.

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The Buffalo and Uvalde shootings were carried out by 18-year-olds using high-powered AR-15 type semi-automatic rifles.

Additionally, whatever gains come with the legislation, a Supreme Court ruling expected this month could be overturned by a Supreme Court ruling that could overturn state restrictions on wearing. weapons in public.

‘Breaking the Impasse’

Even so, gun control advocates applauded the measures, recognizing the potential for meaningful change to break the grip of the gun industry.

“We applaud this historic step forward for gun violence prevention — a step born out of the recognition that this nation needs change and action to save American lives from preventable gun violence,” said Kris Brown, president of the Brady Group: United Against Gun Violence. .

“We’re breaking the deadlock in Congress and proving that gun safety isn’t just good policy — it’s good policy,” said Shannon Watts, founder of the group Moms Demand Action.

Narrow political margin

Still, supporters weren’t fully confident the measures would pass, knowing that the legislation could be blocked if fewer than 10 of 50 Senate Republicans support it.

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Working in their favor is that none of the 10 Republicans who agreed to the deal on Sunday are not running for re-election in November. Four are retiring and five will not be re-elected until 2026; another risk of being re-elected in 2024.

The 20 senators “are committed to each other and to this project,” Coons said.

But the National Rifle Association, which has wielded a powerful influence over Republicans for decades, has made its fundamental opposition clear.

“The NRA will continue to oppose any effort to insert gun control policies, initiatives that override constitutional due process protections, and efforts to deny law-abiding citizens their basic human rights. to protect themselves in this legislation or any other legislation,” the group said.

David Hogg, leader of anti-gun violence group March For Our Lives and himself a survivor of a school shooting, called for action to counter political pressure from the NRA.

“We are going to need a lot of gun owners to speak up and let these Republican senators know that they are supported, that the NRA only speaks for the NRA and not the majority of gun owners. responsible and voting firearms,” ​​he said.

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