US Congress passes most significant gun-control Bill in decades

Biden expected to sign into law legislation expanding background checks

The US House of Representatives on Friday passed significant gun-safety legislation for the first time in three decades, sending it to president Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it into law.

The House voted 234-193 for the Bill, one day after a supreme court ruling broadly expanded gun rights. No Democrats were opposed, while 14 Republicans backed the measure, a rare defeat for US gun manufacturers and the National Rifle Association.

House action followed a late Thursday Senate vote of 65-33 to pass the Bill, with 15 Republicans, including Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell in favour.

“The legislation ... includes several strong steps to save lives, not only from horrific mass shootings but also from the daily massacre of gun crime, suicide and tragic accidents,” House speaker Nancy Pelosi said during debate on the Bill.


Noting that guns have become the leading “killer of children in America”, Ms Pelosi said congress must go beyond this Bill and legislate more improvements to gun-sale background checks and “high-capacity armament”.

The Bill does take some steps on background checks by allowing access, for the first time, to information on significant crimes committed by juveniles. It also cracks down on gun sales to purchasers convicted of domestic violence. And it provides new federal funding to states that administer “red flag” laws intended to remove guns from people deemed dangerous to themselves and others.

“Today they [Democrats] are coming after law-abiding American citizens’ Second Amendment liberties,” said Representative Jim Jordan, the senior Republican on the House judiciary committee. He was referring to the constitutional right to “keep and bear arms” that conservatives argue should be broadly protected.

The gun-safety legislation and the gun rights-expanding supreme court ruling illustrate a 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 young children at an elementary school.

The supreme court, with its 6-3 conservative majority, struck down New York state’s limits on carrying concealed handguns outside the home. The court found that the law, enacted in 1913, violated a person’s right to “keep and bear arms” under the US constitution’s Second Amendment.

The National Rifle Association, the nation’s most powerful gun lobby, declared the ruling “a monumental win” for American gun owners.

By contrast, the legislation in congress is modest in scope for a country with the highest gun ownership per capita in the world and the highest number of mass shootings annually among wealthy nations.

In 2020, the rate of gun deaths in the US surged 35 per cent to the highest point since 1994, with especially deadly levels for young black men, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report published May 10th. — Reuters