Democrats and Republicans have reached an agreement on a framework for US gun safety reforms after two mass shootings last month.
The proposal falls far short of tougher steps long sought by President Joe Biden and many Democrats.
But they represent a noteworthy but limited breakthrough offering modest gun curbs and stepped-up efforts to improve school safety and mental health programmes.
The accord was embraced by Biden and enactment would signal a significant turnabout after years of gun massacres that have yielded little but stalemate in US Congress.
Biden said in a statement that the framework “does not do everything that I think is needed, but it reflects important steps in the right direction and would be the most significant gun safety legislation to pass Congress in decades”.
Given the bipartisan support, “there are no excuses for delay, and no reason why it should not quickly move through the Senate and the House,” he said.
Leaders hope to push any agreement into law rapidly — they hope this month — before the political momentum fades that has been stirred by the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas. Participants cautioned that final details and legislative language remain to be completed, meaning fresh disputes and delays might emerge.
The compromise would make the juvenile records of gun buyers under age 21 available when they undergo background checks. The suspects who killed 10 Black people at a grocery store in Buffalo and 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde were both 18, and many perpetrators of recent years’ mass shootings have been young.
The agreement would offer money to states to enact and put in place “red flag” laws that make it easier to temporarily take guns from people considered potentially violent, plus funds to bolster school safety and mental health programs.
Some people who informally sell guns for profit would be required to obtain federal dealers’ licenses, which means they would have to conduct background checks on buyers. Convicted domestic abusers who do not live with a former partner, such as estranged ex-boyfriends, would be barred from buying firearms, and it would be a crime for a person to legally purchase a weapon for someone who would not qualify for ownership.
The last major firearms restrictions enacted by lawmakers was the 1994 assault weapons ban, which Congress let expire 10 years later.
For years, congressional Republicans representing rural, pro-gun voters have blocked robust restrictions on firearms purchases, citing the Constitution’s Second Amendment.
Democrats, whose voters overwhelmingly favour gun restrictions, have been reluctant to approve incremental steps that they have thought would let GOP lawmakers argue they have tried stemming the tide of violence without meaningfully addressing the problem.