WASHINGTON (AFP) – U.S. senators unveiled a bill Tuesday addressing the epidemic of gun violence plaguing the country as they locked down a narrow set of reforms nevertheless hailed as the first significant federal firearms controls in a generation.
The cross-party group that had been working for weeks on the wording of the legislation voiced confidence that it would have enough support on both sides of the aisle to reach President Joe Biden’s desk as soon as next week.
“This bipartisan gun-safety legislation is progress and will save lives. While it is not everything we want, this legislation is urgently-needed,” Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.
The lawmakers had been up against the clock -- aware that a delay risked killing the sense of urgency ignited by the fatal shooting of 19 children in Uvalde, Texas and of 10 Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo, upstate New York, both in May.
The last significant federal gun control legislation was passed in 1994, banning the manufacture for civilian use of assault rifles and large capacity ammunition clips.
But it expired a decade later and there has been no serious effort at reform since, despite the daily average of mass shootings rising to 11 this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
The bipartisan group of senators agreed on a framework on June 12 that includes enhanced background checks for buyers aged under 21 and funding for mental health and school safety programs.
The blueprint also calls for funding to incentivize states to implement “red flag” laws to remove firearms from people considered a threat.
However, the U.S. National Rifle Association (NRA) announced that it opposes gun safety reforms proposed by a bipartisan group of senators, saying the new legislation will put “unnecessary burdens on the exercise of Second Amendment freedom.”
The powerful gun lobby said in a statement on Tuesday it will back proposed legislation that will improve school safety, promote mental health services and help reduce violence.
“We will oppose this gun control legislation because it falls short at every level,” the association said in its statement. “It does little to truly address violent crime while opening the door to unnecessary burdens on the exercise of Second Amendment freedom by law-abiding gun owners.”
The association also noted that the bill can be abused to restrict lawful gun purchases and introduce gun control measures implemented by local and state governments, and went on to claim that the legislation will restrict “our constitutional freedoms.”
“Decisions by the Supreme Court of the United States in the Heller and McDonald cases make clear that the Second Amendment is an individual constitutional freedom,” the association concluded in its statement. “We will always fight for those freedoms – and the fundamental values we have defended for over 150 years.”