US Senate approves gun safety bill as Supreme Court rejects small arms limits

WASHINGTON, June 23 (Reuters) – A bipartisan package of modest gun security measures passed by the U.S. Senate late Thursday, even as the Supreme Court broadly expanded gun rights by ruling that Americans have a constitutional right to carry guns in public for self defense.

The landmark court ruling and Senate action on gun safety illustrate the deep division 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 more

The Senate bill, passed by 65-33 votes, is the first major gun control legislation passed in three decades, in a country with the highest gun ownership per capita in the world and the highest number of mass shootings per year among wealthy nations. .

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“This bipartisan legislation will help protect Americans. It will make children in schools and communities safer,” President Joe Biden said after the vote. “The House of Representatives should immediately vote on this bipartisan bill and send it to my desk.”

The bill, which supporters say will save lives, is modest — the main gun ownership restriction would tighten background checks for would-be gun buyers convicted of domestic violence or serious crimes as minors.

Republicans refused to compromise on more drastic gun control measures favored by Democrats, including Biden, such as bans on assault-style rifles or high-capacity magazines.

“This is not a panacea for how gun violence affects our nation, but it is a step in the right direction,” Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said before the vote.

The Supreme Court ruling earlier Thursday, passed by the conservative majority, lifted New York state’s restrictions on carrying concealed handguns outdoors.

The court ruled that the law, enacted in 1913, violated a person’s right to “have and bear arms” under the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. read more

In the Senate vote late Thursday, 15 Republicans along with all 50 Democrats voted for the bill.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi applauded the bill’s approval and said in a statement it would go into the House Friday, with a vote coming as soon as possible.

House Republicans had instructed their members to vote against the bill, although their support was not necessary for the bill to pass, as the chamber is controlled by Democrats.

Biden will sign the bill.

The Senate move came weeks after Biden’s impassioned speech declaring “enough” of gun violence and urging lawmakers to take action.

Polls show that a majority of Americans support a number of new restrictions on firearms, demands that typically increase after mass shootings such as those in Texas and New York.

Democrats warned Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling could have serious implications for gun security across the country.

“The Supreme Court made a wrong decision,” Senator Chris Murphy, the lead Democratic negotiator on gun laws, said in an interview.

“I am deeply concerned about the court’s willingness to deprive elected bodies of the ability to protect our voters and that has serious implications for the security of our country,” said Murphy, whose home state of Connecticut, where 26 people were killed in a 2012 shooting at an elementary school.

Conservatives defend a broad reading of the Second Amendment, which they say limits most of the new restrictions on gun purchases.

The Senate’s 80-page Bipartisan Safer Communities Act would encourage states to keep guns out of the hands of those deemed dangerous and tighten background checks for would-be gun buyers convicted of domestic violence or serious crimes as minors.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit research group, more than 20,800 people were killed in gun violence, including murder and suicide, in the United States by 2022.

‘MONUMENTAL WINNER’

The Supreme Court ruling, prepared by Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, stated that the Constitution “protects a person’s right to carry a gun outdoors for self-defense”.

“This is a monumental victory for NRA members and for gun owners across the country,” Jason Ouimet, executive director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement.

“This ruling opens the door to appropriately amending the law in the seven remaining states that still do not recognize the right to carry a firearm for personal protection.”

In the Senate, Republican supporters of the new gun safety law said the measure would not affect the rights of law-abiding gun owners, who are among their most ardent voters.

“It doesn’t affect the rights of the vast majority of American gun owners, who are law-abiding citizens with common sense,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who supports the legislation.

The bill provides funding to help states pass “red flag” laws to keep firearms out of the hands of those deemed a danger to themselves or others. It would also fund alternative interventions in states where the red flag laws are opposed and increase school safety.

It closes the “friend in law” by refusing gun purchases to those convicted of abusing intimate partners in dating relationships, although if they have no further convictions or penalties, they may buy them again.

It also allows states to add juvenile crime and mental health records to national background check databases.

Senator John Cornyn, the lead Republican negotiator on the bill, was booed last week when he discussed its contents during a speech before a Republican Party convention in his home state of Texas.

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Reporting by David Morgan, Andrew Chung and Moira Warburton; additional reporting by Rose Horowitch, Katharine Jackson, Richard Cowan and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Scott Malone, Alistair Bell and Jonathan Oatis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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