After decades of legislative inaction on gun control, the United States Senate has been unusually agile in approving a text agreed by representatives of both parties and released last Tuesday in just 48 hours. The Democrats have 50 of the 100 seats in the Upper House, and they needed the support of 10 Republicans to overcome the parliamentary obstacle of filibustering, which makes 60 votes essential for such important matters as this: to limit a sacrosanct right in the United States United States, which guarantees the Second Amendment. In the end, there have been senators to spare: 65 have voted this Thursday night in favor of a law that imposes restrictions on access to weapons and breaks almost 30 years of paralysis. 33 Conservatives have spoken out (and two were absent). This Friday, the House of Representatives has also approved the law by 234 votes to 193 and, therefore, only Biden’s signature remains.
The norm, which is far from the aspirations of President Joe Biden in this regard, certainly more ambitious, arrives on the same day that the Supreme Court has published a sentence in which it establishes (with the support of six judges and the opposition of the remaining three) the right to bear arms in public, in response to the claim of two individuals. They demanded to review a law that required those who have a gun license to show just cause to carry one on the street. The consequences of that ruling transcend the borders of the State in which the complaint originated.
The Senate and the House of Representatives have acted impelled by the latest wave of mass shootings, whose most tragic manifestations have been recorded in Buffalo (New York), where an 18-year-old boy killed 10 African-Americans with an assault rifle moved by theories characteristic of white supremacism, and in Uvalde (Texas), scene of a massacre that ended the lives of 19 children from a primary school and two of their teachers at the hands of a boy of the same age, and armed with the same rifle class. It is clear that the Supreme Court, the most conservative in 80 years, manages another class of priorities, and that these are not influenced by the social upheaval that these tragedies have caused in the country.
In this way, the Capitol removes the reason from those who were quick to presume that this time nothing would change either, as had already happened after the massacres of Sandy Hook (in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012) or Parkland (Florida, 2018), for give just two examples from the infamous recent history of gun violence in the United States.
The law passed by both chambers strengthens background checks when gun buyers are under 21 (and over 18), and requires a comprehensive review of juvenile records, including mental health records, starting at age 16 , to find indications that advise against the sale. It also provides incentives for states to pass “red flag” laws that allow weapons to be temporarily confiscated from people a judge deems dangerous. It also increases federal investment in prevention, and expands protection for victims of gender-based violence by ending what was known as the “boyfriend loophole.” Until now, only sexist aggressors who were married to their victims were prevented from possessing weapons.
“Tonight, the United States Senate is doing something that many thought was impossible even a few weeks ago: move forward with the first significant gun safety initiative in nearly 30 years,” said the Democratic Majority Leader. in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, after knowing the favorable result of the vote. Once also approved by the House of Representatives, all that remains is for Biden to sign the rule.
One of the most significant signatories on the Republican side is Mitch McConnell, the minority leader of that party in the Senate. Keep in mind that most of the 15 Conservatives who have joined have done so because this year they are not running for elections in which their voters could punish them. The issue of guns remains a red line for the electoral base of many of those legislators.
A few days after the shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, President Biden addressed the nation in a dramatically staged speech in which he called on the Senate to do “something” before releasing his wish list: increase the minimum age to buy weapons from 18 to 21 years, ban assault rifles and curb high-capacity cartridges.
Upon learning of the Senate agreement, which falls short of his aspirations, Biden declared: “Tonight, after 28 years of inaction, members of both parties have come together to heed the call of families across the country and have passed legislation to address gun violence in our communities. The families of Uvalde and Buffalo, and of too many previous tragic shootings, have demanded action. And we have acted.”
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