The Senate of USA passed a bill to control arms in the legislation on Firearms largest in almost 30 years.
The measure passed 65-33, with 15 Republican senators joining Democrats in the upper house of Congress.
The bill follows mass shootings last month at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, that left 31 people dead.
Now it will have to be approved in the House of Representatives before President Biden can sign it into law.
In a statement issued after the vote, the president asked members of the House to “vote immediately on this bipartisan bill and send it to my desk”.
“Tonight, after 28 years of inaction, bipartisan members of Congress came together to heed the call of families across the country and passed legislation to address the scourge of gun violence in our communities,” declared Biden.
“Families in Uvalde and Buffalo, and too many previous tragic shootings, have demanded action. And tonight, we perform.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised to pass the bill quickly, despite Republican leader Kevin McCarthy urging her members to vote against it.
“First thing tomorrow morning, the Rules Committee will meet to bring this life-saving legislation to the floor,” Pelosi said after the vote on Thursday.
Although significant, the proposals fall far short of what many Democrats and activists have called for.
The reforms include stronger background checks for buyers under the age of 21 and $15 billion in federal funding for mental health programs and school safety improvements.
It also calls for funds to encourage states to implement “Red flag” to remove firearms from people considered a threat.
And close the call “boyfriend loophole” by blocking the sale of weapons to individuals convicted of abusing unmarried intimate partners.
The bill is also important because it is the first time in decades that the proposed reforms have received this level of support from both Democrats and Republicans.
Historically, efforts to strengthen America’s gun laws have been blocked by the Republican party.
All 50 Democrats, including the party’s most conservative members, Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, joined negotiating Republicans, including the party’s Senate leader Mitch McConnell and close Trump ally Lindsey Graham.
A host of traditionally conservative-leaning advocacy organizations, including the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, they also supported the bill.
However, two-thirds of Republicans opposed the legislation, and all of those who backed it except Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Indiana’s Todd Young will not face voters this year or have announced their intention not to seek re-election.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is widely targeted as seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, condemned the bill as an attempt to “trying to disarm law-abiding citizens instead of taking serious action to protect our children”.
“Steps in the right direction”
President Biden said earlier this month that the proposals were “steps in the right direction”, but they are still not enough.
Biden has pushed for larger reforms, including a ban on assault weapons which were used in the mass shootings in Texas and Buffalo last month, or at least an increase in the age at which they can be purchased.
The shooter in Texas is believed to have bought two semi-automatic rifles days after his 18th birthday.
The US has the highest rate of gun deaths among the world’s wealthy nations: More than 20,900 people have died from gun violence in the country this year, including homicides and suicides, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a group of non-profit research.
But it is also a country where many appreciate gun rights that are protected by the Second Amendment of the Constitution for “have and bear arms”.
The last significant federal gun control legislation was passed in 1994, banning the civilian manufacture of assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, but it expired a decade later.
After the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut, in which 20 children and six adults were killed, attempts to toughen the laws failed to win enough votes in Congress.
Thursday’s vote came hours after the Supreme Court strikes down a New York law that restricted who can legally carry a gun, effectively expanding gun rights and illustrating the deep division in the United States on the issue.
The court found that New York’s requirement that residents prove “just cause”—or a good reason—to carry a concealed firearm in public violates the Constitution.
McConnell said the court’s decision, combined with Thursday’s legislation, achieved “two historic victories”.