The US House of Representatives has passed a gun control legislation approved earlier by the Senate, breaking a congressional logjam that prevented reforms for 30 years.
The bill is now headed for President Joe Biden`s desk for his signature and enactment, which is anticipated as his aides have said he is waiting to sign it.
“With this bipartisan package, we take the first steps to fight back on behalf of the American people, who desperately want new measures to keep communities safe in the high numbers in the polling,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on the floor of the House. “To those who lacked the courage to join in this work, I say your political survival is insignificant compared to the survival of our children.”
The last gun laws reform was in 1994 when assault weapons were banned.
The new legislation, which has been described as a modest attempt at reforming America`s famously loose gun laws, follows an outpouring of national outrage and frustration over recent killings of 10 African Americans in Buffalo, New York and 19 children at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas just 10 days apart.
The bill was negotiated by a bipartisan group of 10 Democratic and 10 Republican members of the senate, led by Chris Murphy and John Cornyn respectively. It cleared the senate in a 65-33 vote with 15 Republicans voting with all 50 democrats in the 100-member chamber. The House passed it mostly along party lines 234 to 193, with 15 Republicans joining all Democrats.
The legislation makes a modest attempt at restricting access to guns. It expands background checks for prospective buyers between 18 and 21 — both the Buffalo and Uvalde shooters were 18; includes abusive dating partners in the list of those who could be prevented from buying guns; and, finally, it seeks to incentivise states to introduce red-flag laws that would allows law enforcement or relatives to prevent guns from falling in the hands of people who could harm either themselves or others. The bill also seeks to pump in $15 billion into school safety and mental-health care.
“This is the sweet spot a making America safer, especially for kids in school, without making our country one bit less free,” Mitch McConnell, the top Republican senator, had said on the floor of the chamber after the passage of the legislation in the senate. “I thought it was time to act, and if (Democrats) were willing to join with us and pass legislation that actually targeted the problem, which is school safety and mental health, why would we not want to do that?”