WASHINGTON: The US Senate took an initial step toward passing the country’s first major gun-control legislation in decades on Tuesday, galvanised by two mass shootings in a nation that has long struggled to curb chronic gun violence. Senators voted to speed passage of a bipartisan package of measures to toughen federal gun laws. The Senate is expected to vote on the 80-page bill this week before a two-week recess. The bill unveiled on Tuesday does not go as far as Democrats, including President Biden, had sought. Still, if passed, it would be the most significant action to combat gun violence to emerge from Congress in years.
The legislation includes provisions that would help states keep guns out of the hands of those deemed to be a danger to themselves or others and close the so-called boyfriend loophole by blocking gun sales to those convicted of abusing unmarried intimate partners. After mass shootings at a New York grocery store and a Texas elementary school that authorities said were committed by teenagers, the legislation would allow states to provide juvenile records to the national background check system for gun purchases. The bill stops short of raising the age limit from 18 to 21 on purchases of semi-automatic assault-style weapons. The shooters in both Texas and New York were 18-year-olds who used assault-style rifles they bought themselves.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he expected the bill to pass this week, while Senator Chris Murphy, the lead Democrat in talks to craft a legislative deal with Republicans, called it “the most significant piece of anti-gun-violence legislation Congress will have passed in 30 years”. The Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, called the legislation “a commonsense package” and pledged his support. With the 100-seat Senate split evenly between the two parties, the legislation will need support from at least 10 Republicans to pass a procedural hurdle. Fourteen Republicans joined all 50 Democrats to move toward voting on the legislation.