US senate toughens gun laws in first firearms control bill in decades

·2-min read
A “March for Our Lives
A “March for Our Lives

The US Senate has passed its most significant firearms legislation in decades in response to recent mass shootings.

The legislation will help states implement “red-flag” laws to keep guns from high-risk owners and toughen background checks for buyers younger than 21. It will also provide $15bn (£12.2bn) in federal funding for mental health and violence reduction programmes and school security upgrades.

It also closes a so-called “boyfriend loophole” by blocking gun sales to those convicted of abusing unmarried intimate partners.

Fifteen Republicans joined Democrats to approve the measures by 65 votes to 33 after a month of negotiations on one of the country’s most contentious political issues. The bill will now have to pass in the House of Representatives before President Biden can sign it into law, which could happen within days.

However the action stopped short of what many Democrats and activists had called for.

President Joe Biden earlier this month said the proposals were “steps in the right direction” but are still not enough.

He has pushed for bigger reforms - including a ban on assault rifles, which were used in the Texas and Buffalo mass shootings last month that left a combined 31 people dead- or at least an increase in the age at which they can be purchased.

The gunman in the shooting in Uvalde, Texas is believed to have purchased two semi-automatic rifles days after turning 18.

While the new legislation was hailed as progress the nation’s divisions were on clear display as it was passed on the same day the Supreme Court expanded gun rights by ruling Americans have a constitutional right to carry handguns in public for self-defence.

The justices’ 6-3 decision is expected to allow more people to legally carry guns on the streets of the nation’s largest cities - including New York, Los Angeles and Boston - and elsewhere. About a quarter of the US population live in states expected to be affected by the ruling, the high court’s first major gun decision in more than a decade.

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