US passes gun-control bill following rare bipartisan compromise

The US Congress has approved legislation that would impose new restrictions on gun ownership in America, the result of an unexpected bipartisan compromise that was forged after mass shootings in Texas and New York last month.

On Friday, the House of Representatives passed the gun-control bill by a margin of 234 to 193, sending it to president Joe Biden’s desk to be enacted. The US Senate voted in favour of the legislation earlier this week.

The new gun legislation is weaker than what had been advocated by Biden and many congressional Democrats, who pushed for an outright ban on the kinds of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines used in most mass shootings in America.

But it does include a tightening of background checks for gun purchases, allows states to introduce “red flag” laws to prevent dangerous individuals from acquiring guns, and beefs up programmes to tackle mental illness.

Chris Murphy, the Democratic senator from Connecticut who took up the mantle of gun-control legislation after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in his state a decade ago, said a “moral imperative” to do something had finally led to a deal and breaking the “logjam”.

“We did it because of people all across this country who, over the last 10 years, came up against failure after failure, roadblock after roadblock, and persevered,” Murphy said.

“You were convinced of the righteousness of this cause and that we would eventually prevail, and one day we’d be strong enough to beat the NRA,” he added, referring to the National Rifle Association, the biggest gun owners’ lobby organisation.

The agreement came together in part because Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, gave it his blessing in order to shore up support for his party in the upcoming midterm elections, as Democrats try to depict their opponents as extreme.

Many polls have shown that a majority of Americans support gun-control measures given the severity and frequency of gun violence across the country.

The final passage of legislation, however, was clouded by a Supreme Court ruling on Thursday that struck down a New York law imposing licensing requirements for the possession of concealed firearms — as conservative justices made it harder for states and cities to impose their own restrictions on weapons.

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