WASHINGTON, June 23 (Reuters) – A bipartisan package of modest gun safety measures was introduced in the U.S. Senate on Thursday, even as the Supreme Court broadly expanded gun rights by ruling that Americans have the constitutional right to carry handguns in public for self-defence.
The Senate bill would strengthen background checks on potential gun buyers convicted of domestic violence or serious crimes as minors. It does not include more sweeping gun control measures favored by Democrats, including President Joe Biden, such as banning assault rifles or high-capacity magazines.
The 6-to-3 majority conservative Supreme Court ruling struck down New York state limits on carrying concealed handguns outside the home. The court found that the law, enacted in 1913, violated a person’s right to “keep and bear arms” under the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. Read more
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Hours later, the Senate voted 65-34 to advance the gun safety package to a final vote on passage that could come later in the day or Friday. The vote marks the countdown for up to 30 hours of debate. Democrats urged Republicans to agree to expedite the process.
The court’s historic decision and the Senate’s procedural vote illustrate the deep tensions around guns in the United States. Polls show that the majority of Americans support some new limits on guns, demands that typically increase in the wake of mass shootings like those recently seen in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York.
At the same time, conservatives advocate a broad reading of the Second Amendment, which they say limits most new restrictions on gun purchases.
The Senate votes follow an impassioned speech by Biden earlier this month in which he declared “enough” and urged lawmakers to act.
The Senate’s 80-page bipartisan Safer Communities Act would encourage states to keep guns away from people deemed dangerous and tighten background checks on potential gun buyers convicted of domestic violence or crimes serious as minors.
Lawmakers say the bill would save lives by helping stem the tide of gun murders in the United States.
More than 20,800 people have died from gun violence in the United States so far in 2022, including homicide and suicide, according to Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit research group.
“It’s not a panacea for all the ways gun violence affects our nation. But it’s a long overdue step in the right direction. It’s important and it will save lives,” he said. said Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer in a floor. word.
‘MONUMENTAL VICTORY’ FOR NRA
The Supreme Court ruling, written by conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, said the Constitution protects “an individual’s right to carry a handgun in self-defence outside of his or her home.”
“This is a monumental victory for NRA members and for gun owners across the country. New York’s blatant law, which has left the rights of self-defense of its residents to the whim by a government bureaucrat, has been declared unconstitutional and must be amended,” Jason Ouimet, executive director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement.
“This decision opens the door to rightly changing the law in the remaining seven states that still do not recognize the right to carry a firearm for personal protection.”
In the Senate, Republicans who support the new legislation, insisting it does not erode the rights of law-abiding gun owners, are among their most ardent voters. They also tried to dissuade Democrats from making such predictions, saying the success of the current legislation is unlikely to change their party’s attitude toward guns.
“It does not so much affect the rights of the overwhelming majority of American gun owners, who are sane, law-abiding citizens,” said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who supports the legislation.
The bill provides funds to help states pass “red flag” laws to keep guns out of the hands of those deemed a danger to themselves or others. It would also fund alternative response measures in states where red flag laws are opposed and provide enhanced school safety.
It closes the “boyfriend loophole” by denying gun purchases to those convicted of abusing intimate partners in romantic relationships, and allows states to add criminal and mental health records juveniles to national background check databases.
Sen. John Cornyn, the lead Republican negotiator on the bill, was booed last week as he discussed its contents during a speech to a Republican Party convention in his home state of Texas.
Senator Richard Durbin, House Democrat No. 2, said the bill would provide $4.5 billion in funding to the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Education. A Republican aide put the overall price of the measure at $13.3 billion, saying the cost was fully offset by funds from elsewhere in the federal budget.
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Reporting by David Morgan and Andrew Chung, additional reporting by Rose Horowitch, Katharine Jackson, Moira Warburton and Richard Cowan; Editing by Scott Malone, Alistair Bell and Jonathan Oatis
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