Wednesday witnessed a watershed development in the United States of America. A bipartisan group of lawmakers have reached an agreement on major gun control legislation for the first time in nearly 30 years, paving the way for a vote in the Senate very shortly. The 80-page bill includes measures to tighten background checks on young people buying weapons, additional background checks, and the temporary removal of weapons from those considered a danger to others or themselves.
It has cleared an initial procedural hurdle by 64-34, with 14 Republicans joining all 48 Democrats and two allied independents to back the bill. “I believe that this week, we will pass legislation that will become the most significant piece of anti-gun-violence legislation Congress will have passed in 30 years. This is a breakthrough,” Senator Chris Murphy, the lead Democrat in the talks, said on the Senate floor. “And more basically, it is a bipartisan breakthrough.” Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer. pledged to move forward as soon as possible, with an expected motion to proceed. “This bipartisan gun-safety legislation is progress and will save lives.
While it is not everything we want, this legislation is urgently needed,” Schumer said in a statement. The agreement, albeit watered down, marks a breakthrough in the divisive debate over gun control legislation which has continued despite years of mass shootings, most recently at a primary school in Uvalde, Texas, where an 18-year old gunman shot dead 19 children and two teachers. This is the first time in decades that there has been bilateral agreement on gun control legislation. Going by the provisions of the bill, there will also be tougher penalties on gun traffickers while states and communities will be given financial support to improve school safety and mental health initiatives.
That said, it must be underlined that Republicans have blocked the more potent proposals supported by President Biden and the Democrats. These include banning assault-type weapons or raising the minimum age for buying them, prohibiting high-capacity magazines, and requiring background checks for virtually all gun sales. The killings in Uvalde, which occurred just a week after an 18-year-old gunman killed 10 Black shoppers in a racist attack in a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, appear to have convinced Democrats and some Republicans that action was necessary.
Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, expressed his support for the measures, calling the bill “a common sense package of popular steps that will help make these horrifying incidents less likely while fully upholding the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens”. The bill will need support from at least 10 Republicans to reach the 60-vote threshold major bills require in the 50-50 Senate. Senator John Cornyn, the lead Republican negotiator in the bipartisan talks, hoped the legislation would succeed. Congress had prohibited the sale of assault-type firearms in 1993 in a ban that expired after a decade ~ the last substantial legislation addressing gun violence.