A bipartisan group of US senators on Sunday proposed measures to curb gun violence after devastating mass shootings in Texas and New York, but the limited measures are not enough to meet the president’s calls for change.
The May shootings — one at a Texas elementary school that killed 19 young children and two teachers, and another in a New York supermarket that killed 10 black people — have increased pressure on politicians to take action.
But Republican lawmakers, who have repeatedly blocked tougher measures, still oppose 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 the age of 21, more resources for states to keep guns out of the hands of people deemed a risk, and crackdown on illegal gun purchases.
“Today we are announcing a common-sense, two-pronged proposal to protect American children, keep our schools safe and reduce the threat of violence in our country,” the group of 20 Democratic and Republican lawmakers said in a statement. “Our plan will increase mental health resources, improve school safety and student support, and help ensure that dangerous criminals and those identified as mentally ill cannot buy weapons.”
The senators also called for increased investment in mental health services and resources for school safety, as well as the inclusion of domestic violence convictions and restraining orders in the national background check database. President Joe Biden praised the announcement and urged lawmakers to pass it quickly, while making it clear that the proposals don’t go far enough.
“Obviously it doesn’t do everything I think it needs to, but it reflects important steps in the right direction and would be the most important gun safety legislation passed by Congress in decades,” he said in a statement. “With bipartisan support, there are no excuses for delay, and no reason why it shouldn’t move through the Senate and House soon.”
Frequent mass shootings
The president had pushed for more substantial reforms, including a ban on assault rifles — which were used in both the Texas and New York shootings — or at the very least raising the age at which they can be purchased. He had also urged lawmakers to ban high-capacity magazines, impose safe storage of firearms and hold gun manufacturers accountable for crimes committed with their products.
The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives has passed a broad package of proposals, including raising the buying age for most semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21. But the party doesn’t have the required 60 votes to advance it in the Senate. leaving the bipartisan deal as the only hope for federal action to tackle gun violence.
Frequent mass shootings have sparked widespread outrage in the United States, where a majority of people support tougher gun laws, but opposition from many Republican lawmakers and voters has long been a barrier to major change. A strong supporter of gun rights is the National Rifle Association, which has been weakened by scandal and hit by a lawsuit from the New York State Attorney General, but still wields significant influence. “The media, left-wing politicians and gun-hating activists bully NRA members and gun owners because they want us to give up. We will not bend a knee,” the lobby tweeted on Saturday.
The media, left-wing politicians and gun-hating activists bully NRA members and gun owners because they want us to give up.
We will not bend a knee.
The Second Amendment is worth fighting for.
– NRA (@NRA) June 12, 2022
That day, thousands of people took to the streets in the United States to push for action against gun violence, protesting in Washington, New York and locations across the country. “The will of the American people is being undermined by a minority,” said protester Cynthia Martins, a 63-year-old resident of the American capital. “Wringing hands won’t do anything – you have to make your voice heard.”