Congress moved closer to enacting a bipartisan gun law on Wednesday, taking the first modest step in decades to curb America’s only mass shooting epidemic that culminated with last month’s bloody shootings at a Buffalo supermarket and elementary school in Texas.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DNY) hailed the proposed bill as “common sense” and “life-saving,” and pledged to push the bill through the equally divided upper house with some Republican support by the end of the week.
“Congress is on its way to taking meaningful action to address gun violence for the first time in nearly 30 years,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “The bill is real progress. It will save lives.”
Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) announced the gun deal saying it required important steps to address “the two issues that I think he’s focused on, school safety and mental health.”
“(The bill would) help reduce the potential for these horrific incidents to occur while fully preserving the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens,” McConnell said.
The bill would spend $8.6 billion on mental health programs and more than $2 billion on safety and other improvements in schools, according to a cost estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
Legislative language includes ensuring that juvenile records for gun purchasers between the ages of 18 and 20 are part of the background checks required to purchase firearms, banning guns for convicted domestic violence perpetrators who are not married to or living with their victims and toughening penalties for gun trafficking.
But it falls short of important reforms such as a ban on assault weapons or high-capacity magazines that opponents of gun violence say could make a real difference in stopping the mass killings.
Compromise won 14 GOP votes in a procedural vote in the Senate, enough to overcome conservative disruption and a sign it could win a quick passage.
The measure is a done deal in the Democratic-led House even though progressives complain that it is wholly inappropriate, given the scale of America’s addiction to guns.
Schumer paid tribute to the families of victims of gun massacres such as the one that wreaked havoc on schools in Columbine, Colorado and Sandy Hook, Connecticut, as well as a 2017 concert in Las Vegas.
“Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle,” Schumer said. They turned their sorrows into action.
Although it’s a watered-down compromise, the deal represents an unexpected election year breakthrough on a highly tense culture war battlefield, which has challenged any solution for decades, even as the death toll from mass killings rises daily.
The vast majority of Americans prefer stricter restrictions on weapons, especially killers armed with weapons that can kill dozens in a matter of seconds.
Gun control advocates like Sandy Hook’s parents and a lobby group led by the former MP. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona Democrat), who was injured by a voter who opened fire at a meet-and-greet, called on Americans to support the bill as an incremental step toward a marginally safer nation.
Fred Gutenberg celebrated the deal by posting a photo of his daughter Jaime who was murdered in the Parkland, Florida, school rampage.
“We did it!!! With you standing on my shoulder, it was always just a matter of time.”
But the powerful gun lobby has steadily halted even the simplest of reforms, such as banning weapons and ammunition that are actually only used to kill as quickly and effectively as possible.
The National Rifle Association continued to hold its convention in Houston just days after the Ovaldi bloodshed and ex-President Donald Trump were criticized for dancing on stage at the nation’s largest gathering of gun owners.
Formally correct, the NRA even opposed the Senate Compromise Bill.
“This legislation can be misused to restrict legitimate purchases of weapons (and) violate the rights of law-abiding Americans,” the NRA said on its Twitter account.