WASHINGTON (AFP) – A
bipartisan group of U.S. senators proposed steps to curb gun violence following devastating mass shootings in Texas and New York, but the limited measures fall far short of the president’s calls for change.
The shootings in May -- one at a Texas elementary school that killed 19 young children and two teachers, and another at a New York supermarket that left 10 Black people dead -- have piled pressure on politicians to take action.
But Republicans lawmakers, who have repeatedly blocked tougher measures, are still resisting major changes to gun regulations, instead pointing to mental health issues as the root of the problem.
The new proposals include tougher background checks for gun buyers under 21, increasing resources for states to keep weapons out of the hands of people deemed a risk, and cracking down on illegal gun purchases.
The senators also called for increased investment in mental health services and school safety resources, as well as including domestic violence convictions and restraining orders in the national background check database.
The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed a broad package of proposals that included raising the purchasing age for most semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21.
But the party does not have the requisite 60 votes to advance it in the Senate, leaving the bipartisan deal as the only hope for federal measures to address firearms violence.
Frequent mass shootings have led to widespread outrage in the United States, where a majority of people support tighter gun laws, but opposition from many Republican lawmakers and voters has long been a hurdle to major changes.
A strong supporter of gun rights is the National Rifle Association, which has been weakened by scandals and was hit by a lawsuit from New York State’s attorney general, but it still wields considerable influence.
“The media, leftist politicians, and gun-hating activists are bullying NRA members and gun owners because they want us to give up. We won’t bend a knee,” the lobby tweeted on Saturday.
That day, thousands of people took to the streets in the United States to push for action on gun violence, protesting in Washington, New York and locations across the country.
“The will of the American people is being subverted by a minority,” said protestor Cynthia Martins, a 63-year-old resident of the U.S. capital. “Hand wringing is not going to do anything -- you have to make your voice heard.”