Rifles in a display in a gun shop Image Credit: AP

Democrats and Republicans in the US Senate have finally come to an agreement on a bipartisan deal over gun safety measures. The move, which has sufficient support in the Senate, is a significant step forward towards ending a congressional deadlock on the highly contentious issue.

It attains even more significance because the development comes in the wake of the recent gun massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 children and two teachers, and a racist shooting attack in Buffalo that killed 10 Black people in a supermarket.

Widespread public outrage

Widespread public outrage over those shock killings proved to be a turning point, pushing the debate on issue of gun violence to the forefront in Washington DC. The latest agreement arrived at by negotiators — subject to passing by the US Congress — would be the most significant piece of gun-safety legislation in America in more than quarter of a century.

This is not what activists and critics would agree with in totality, and many might even call the package too modest but the framework marks an important first step in gun control. It calls for several gun restrictions and new investments in school security and mental health services. US states will get incentives to pass and implement ‘red-flag’ laws to remove firearms from potentially dangerous people, per the deal.

Importantly, the deal calls for stricter gun background checks for people between the ages of 18 and 21 to include a mandatory search of juvenile justice records; and closing what is known as the “boyfriend loophole” to bar partners from owning guns if they have been convicted of domestic violence. Provision worth billions has been made for mental health care and school security programmes across the US.

Senators, who worked closely on the deal put out a statement, “Families are scared, and it is our duty to come together and get something done that will help restore their sense of safety and security in their communities.”

US President Joe Biden also lend his support, noting, “Obviously, it does not do everything that I think is needed, but it reflects important steps in the right direction, and would be the most significant gun safety legislation to pass Congress in decades.”

The agreement, which falls short of sweeping changes, proposed by anti-gun activists, is nonetheless a significant step toward ending a long spell of non-action over gun reform legislation in America. The US Congress must approve it without further ado.