The United States accounts for the highest amount of gun ownership, along with the most incidents of mass shootings among all wealthy nations. As per statistics, more than 390 million firearms are owned by civilians alone. In the year 2020, more than 45,000 people in the country died due to gun violence.
In a revolutionary measure, the US Senate passed a bipartisan gun safety bill to address the issue of gun violence in the country, on Thursday night. This comes after the Supreme Court broadly specified gun rights by ruling that it is the constitutional right of all American citizens to carry handguns in public, for self-defence purposes. It struck down a New York law that established strict restrictions on carrying concealed firearms in public. The Supreme Court ruling and the Senate’s action on gun laws displays the huge divide over the issue, between policymakers.
The Senate’s Legislation
The bill passed by the Senate (Upper Chamber) is the first major gun control legislation passed in the country after 30 years. With a final vote of 65 to 33, including 15 republicans who joined in support of this measure, the bill marks the most significant bipartisan breakthrough.
A very important feature of the bill in order to regulate gun ownership is the strengthening of the background check process for purchasers who were convicted of domestic violence or crimes as juveniles. The bill also comes with a huge price tag that includes investment of billions of dollars into mental health programs, school safety, crisis intervention programs and incentives for states to record juvenile offences in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The Republicans refused to give their assent on more crucial measures like a complete ban on assault rifles, and high-capacity magazines.
The bill will be sent to the House of Representatives (Lower Chamber) on Friday, June 24, before US President Joe Biden signs it into a law. Following the vote in the Senate, Biden urged, “The House of Representatives should promptly vote on this bipartisan bill and send it to my desk.”
The Supreme Court Ruling
The Senate’s vote on the gun safety bill coincides with the Supreme Court’s ruling that struck down a New York law restricting citizens from carrying concealed firearms in public. As per the ruling, the 108-years-old Sullivan Act, which was passed in the year 1911, violates the provisions of the second-amendment. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision to uphold the law.
Writing for the majority of the court, Justice Clarence Thomas stated that the law was unconstitutional and prevented “law abiding citizens with ordinary self-defence needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms”. Soon after the release of the ruling, Governor Kathy Hochul responded by saying that the ruling is “appalling”, especially right after the country witnessed mass shooting cases in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York, which killed more than 30 people, including school-going children.
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