A bipartisan package of modest gun safety measures passed the U.S. Senate late on Thursday (June 23) even as the Supreme Court broadly expanded gun rights by ruling Americans have a constitutional right to carry handguns in public for self-defense.
The landmark court ruling and Senate action on gun safety illustrate the deep divide over firearms in the United States, weeks after mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, killed more than 30 people, including 19 children. Read full story
The Senate bill, approved in a 65-33 vote, is the first significant gun control legislation to pass in three decades, in a country with the highest gun ownership per capita in the world and the highest number of mass shootings annually among wealthy nations.
“This bipartisan legislation will help protect Americans. Kids in schools and communities will be safer because of it,” President Joe Biden said following the vote. “The House of Representatives should promptly vote on this bipartisan bill and send it to my desk.”
The bill, which supporters say will save lives, is modest – its most important restraint on gun ownership would tighten background checks for would-be gun purchasers convicted of domestic violence or significant crimes as juveniles.
Republicans refused to compromise on more sweeping gun control measures favored by Democrats including Biden, such as a ban on assault-style rifles or high-capacity magazines.
“This is not a cure-all for the ways gun violence affects our nation, but it is a long overdue step in the right direction,” Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the floor ahead of the vote.
In the Senate vote late on Thursday, 15 Republicans joined all 50 Democrats in voting for the bill.
Republican backers of the new gun safety bill said that the measure does not erode the rights of law-abiding gun owners, who are among their most ardent constituents.
“Passing good public policy and supporting the Constitution are not mutually exclusive,” said Republican senator from Texas, John Cornyn, the lead Republican negotiator on the bill who was booed last week as he discussed its contents during a speech before a Republican Party convention in his home state of Texas.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi applauded the bill’s passage and said in a statement it would advance in the House on Friday (June 24), with a vote coming as soon as possible.
Biden will sign the bill into law.