A bipartisan gun violence bill that once seemed unimaginable is on the verge of winning congressional approval in the US, in what would be the most sweeping political response in decades to mass shootings that have sadly become a regular part of American life.
The US House of Representatives is set to vote on the $13 billion package on Friday, exactly one month after a gunman massacred 19 students and two teachers at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school.
Days before, a white man killed 10 black grocery shoppers in Buffalo, New York.
The two killings — days apart — prompted both parties to conclude that Congress had to act, especially in an election year. After weeks of closed-door talks, negotiators from both parties produced a compromise taking mild but impactful steps toward making similar attacks less likely.
“Families in Uvalde and Buffalo, and too many tragic shootings before, have demanded action. And tonight, we acted,” President Joe Biden said.
The legislation will toughen background checks for the youngest gun buyers, keep firearms from more domestic violence offenders, and help states put in place red flag laws that make it easier for authorities to take weapons from people adjudged dangerous.
It would also fund local programs for school safety, mental health and violence prevention.
The Senate approved the measure Thursday by 65-33, with fifteen Republicans joining all 50 Democrats in approving the bill.
While the bill was noteworthy for its contrast with years of stalemate in Washington, it falls far short of more robust gun restrictions Democrats have sought. Those included bans on the assault-type weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines used in the killings in Buffalo and Uvalde.
For gun restriction advocates, Thursday was a bittersweet day, with the US Supreme Court issuing a decision expanding the right of Americans to carry arms in public, by striking down a New York law requiring people to prove a need for carrying a weapon before they get a licence to do so.