WASHINGTON – President Biden on Saturday signed into law a bipartisan gun bill aimed at preventing dangerous people from accessing guns and increasing investment in the nation’s mental health care system, ending nearly three decades of stalemate in Washington over how to tackle gun violence in the United States.
Final passage of the law in Congress comes a month after a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas left 19 children and two teachers dead, a horror that forced a bipartisan group of lawmakers to reached a narrow compromise.
“God willing,” Biden said as he put down his pen on Saturday morning, “it will save a lot of lives.”
The president acknowledged that the legislation fell short of the far-reaching measures he pushed for, but he said it included some long-sought priorities.
“When it seems impossible to get anything done in Washington, we’re doing something,” Biden said.
For legislators, advocates and survivors of gun violence, the law is the culmination of decades of work, built on repeated failed attempts to overcome Republican protests and amending the nation’s gun laws in response to mass shootings across the country. But the law was enacted on the same week The Supreme Court has canceled New York law restricts gun owners from being able to carry a gun outside their home, citing the Second Amendment.
Passing the gun bill also gives Mr Biden a legislative achievement just before he heads to Europe for a pair of summits that will focus mainly on Ukraine. On Saturday, the president also signed a bill extending free meals and other food assistance to children.
Gun Law will expand the background check system to potential gun buyers under the age of 21, allowing authorities to check juvenile and mental health records for up to 10 business days. It sets aside millions of dollars so states can fund intervention programs, such as mental health and drug courts, and implements so-called red flag laws that allow temporary authorities to time to confiscate a gun from any person found by a judge to be too dangerous to possess. surname.
It pours more federal money into mental health resources in communities and schools around the country, and spends millions of dollars on school safety. The act is also tough against gun sales and straw buying, where buying firearms on someone’s behalf is prohibited. And for the first time, it included serious or recent dating partners in a ban on domestic abusers from buying weapons, tightening what’s known as the boyfriend loophole.
“I think the whole country is yearning for something real to happen after these terrible tragedies,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, said in an interview this week. before. Before the Texas shooting, he spent time in Buffalo, counseling grieving families after a racist attack at a supermarket where 10 Negroes died.
Mr. Biden said he would host both families affected by gun violence and lawmakers who helped introduce the measure at a White House event in July, after a recess on May 4. 7, and suggested that compromise was a sign that more bipartisan efforts were possible.
“Their message to us is to do something about it,” Biden said of gun violence survivors and families. “How many times have you heard that? Just do something. For God’s sake, just do something.”
“Well, today, we did,” the president added.
For Mr. Biden and others, the compromise reflects decades of work on gun safety legislation. After 20 children were shot dead in Newtown, Conn., in 2012, Mr. Biden, vice president at the time, tasked by President Barack Obama with drafting a list of gun law enforcement actions. Mr. Biden also urged lawmakers to expand background checks, but work to pass that measure and other gun control provisions. defeat in the Senate.
After the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings, Mr. Biden called for the restoration of the assault weapons ban – a restriction he helped pass as a senator, which went into effect a decade before it expired. in 2004.
Most of Congress’s efforts on guns have been thwarted in recent years by the Republican opposition, as the party has largely united to block new gun control measures and stop it. reaches the threshold of 60 votes needed for most bills to pass in the Senate. However, as lawmakers reeled from images emanating from the Texas shootings, party leaders tacitly sent their blessings to a small coalition of senators eager to reach an agreement. hiep.
But even if Mr. Biden used rare evening address This month to call on Congress to take sweeping action, such as banning assault weapons and banning the sale of semi-automatic rifles to people under the age of 21, senators focused on measures that could ensure secured enough Republican support to allow passage of the Senate.
They reserved the call for federal red flag legislation, agreeing instead to provide $750 million in federal grants to help states implement those laws and fund intervention programs. crisis. Lawmakers also agreed to allow enhanced background checks for younger buyers to expire after a decade and let their successors debate expanding it. a tactic that brought the assault weapons ban to an end in 2004.
And while lawmakers and activists have long fought to close the loophole in boyfriend protection, negotiators also agree that first-time misdemeanors can regain the ability to buy guns after five years. years as long as they do not commit any other acts of violence. (The previous ban only applied to domestic abusers who lived, married, or had children with the victim.)
“I have to say this bill doesn’t do all that we want to do,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a speech on the floor Friday. Still, she added, “It’s a necessary step to honor our solemn obligation as legislators to protect and defend the American people.”
In the end, 15 Senate Republicans supported the measure, including Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, the minority leader. Fourteen Republicans in the House voted for it. A majority of Republicans, backed by the National Rifle Association, oppose it too broadly, even as Mr McConnell and Mr Cornyn acknowledge voters’ desire for action and emphasize their success in the election. narrowing the ambitions of the Democratic Party.
Many Republican supporters, especially in the Senate, will not face voters this year. But in the face of overwhelming calls to action, supporters of the measure were largely unmoved in the face of opposition from both gun rights groups and their colleagues.
“I know that this discussion is mostly about politics, and to be honest, to quote a popular movie, I don’t really care,” said Senator Mitt Romney of Wyoming. Senator Mitt Romney of Utah said, recalling that he was in favor of raising the minimum age to purchase an assault weapon before it became clear, it was a no-brainer for most parties. Republican member.
He added: “The highest priority by far is to try to reduce child shootings in the US, especially mass shootings. “I believe this bill will help with that. Will it stop them? Of course not, but will it make a difference? I believe so too. And for me, that’s enough.”