US Senate passes gun safety bill as Supreme Court loosens handgun limits

US Senate passes gun safety bill as Supreme Court loosens handgun limits

A bipartisan package of modest gun safety measures passed the US Senate late on Thursday, even as the country’s Supreme Court broadly expanded gun rights by ruling Americans have a constitutional right to carry handguns in public for self-defence.

The simultaneous landmark court ruling and Senate action on gun safety illustrates the deep divide over firearms in the US, weeks after mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, killed more than 30 people, including 19 children.

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 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.

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.

Crosses with the names of victims of Uvalde, Texas, school shooting are seen during the
The recent shooting in Uvalde, Texas, as well as Buffalo, New York, prompted the US President to plead for politicians to respond. (Reuters: Jeenah Moon)

Republicans refused to compromise on more sweeping gun control measures favored by Democrats, including President Joe Biden, such as a ban on assault-style rifles or high-capacity magazines.

In the Senate vote late on Thursday, 15 Republicans joined all 50 Democrats in voting for the bill.

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