US lawmakers agree on landmark gun safety bill

Thursday, Jun 23, 2022

WASHINGTON: US senators unveiled a bill late on Tuesday addressing the epidemic of gun violence plaguing the country as they locked down a narrow set of reforms that were nevertheless hailed as the first significant firearms controls in a generation.

The cross-party group, which had been working for weeks on the wording of the legislation, voiced confidence that it would have enough support to pass the Senate, and it could be signed into law by President Joe Biden as soon as next week.

The limited proposals don’t go as far as reforms called for by Biden, such as an all-out ban on assault rifles. But Chris Murphy, the senator leading negotiations for Democrats, hailed the bill as the "most significant piece of anti-gun violence legislation in nearly 30 years."

"This bill is going to save thousands of lives," he tweeted. The lawmakers had been up against the clock -- aware that any delay risked losing the sense of urgency ignited by the fatal shooting of 19 children in Uvalde, Texas and of 10 Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo, upstate New York, both last month.

The last significant federal gun control legislation was passed in 1994, banning the manufacture for civilian use of assault rifles and large capacity ammunition clips. But it expired a decade later and there has been no serious effort at reform since, despite rising gun violence.

"This bipartisan gun-safety legislation is progress and will save lives. While it is not everything we want, this legislation is urgently-needed," Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

A cross-party group of senators agreed on a framework on June 12 that includes enhanced background checks for buyers aged under 21, $11 billion in funding for mental health and $2 billion for school safety programs.

The blueprint also calls for funding to incentivize states to implement "red flag" laws to remove firearms from people considered a threat. However the National Rifle Association, America’s powerful gun rights lobby, rejected the deal.