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US Congressmen patch up a gun-safety legislation; Biden signs

The new piecemeal legislation, a gun reform coming after three decades, is born of a compulsion to do something about gun violence in the background of the Texas school mass shooting that shocked the entire world and exposed the American reality. Just enhancing background checks for gun buyers under 21 and closing a 'boyfriend loophole' - the two major provisions - are not something great to celebrate as landmark achievement. They are not going to impact gun sales, but the Congressmen's crocodile tears may help in the forthcoming midterm election in November.

WASHINGTON, June 25: President Joe Biden signed on Saturday morning the gun-safety legislation passed by the Congress earlier in a rare show of bipartisan compromise following a spate of mass shootings in the US. Much acclaimed as a landmark achievement, the new piecemeal approach to dealing with the problem of raging gun violence, however, is not going to impact gun sales!.

This is nowhere near what Dems wanted. They wanted a ban on all assault-style weapons and background checks for all those wanting to buy a gun. Last time when the Congress enacted a serious legislation was in 1993 when assault weapons were banned but the law expired later on.

The new bipartisan legislation is not going to impact gun sales but, for electoral purpose (midterm polls), it has been projected as showing that the Democrats and the Republicans can come together for a national cause.

The urgent legislation follows last month's gruesome mass shootings at a New York grocery killing 10 people and the primary school in Uvalde, Texas, that claimed the lives of 19 children and two teachers.

The House of Representatives passed the Bill on Friday with 234 to 193 votes, with 14 Republicans supporting. Earlier, the Senate had on Thursday voted 65-33 to approve it, with the back of 15 Republicans, including Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell.

A gun reform coming after three decades, although a small step, has been hailed as a landmark achievement in putting a brake on shootings which have become a daily incident in the US.

Gun control has been a divisive issue in American politics with the conservative Republican party backing the gun lobby that included the powerful National Rifle Association and the arms manufacturers, a pillar of national economy.

The new legislation includes enhanced background checks for gun buyers under 21 and eliminating a "boyfriend loophole" existing in the present laws.

'Boyfriend Loophole'

At present those convicted of domestic violence are barred from buying guns. This is applicable only if they are living with their partner, married to their partner or have a child with their partner. The law does not apply to dating partners and this came to be called the "boyfriend loophole." So, in the new legislation those convicted of abusing unmarried intimate partners ("dating relationships") will also be barred from buying guns.

The new legislation will also implement a "red flag" law to remove firearms from people considered a threat. The law prevents individuals who show signs of being a threat to themselves or others from purchasing or possessing any kind of firearm. The police can ask the court to disarm those posing a threat to others. 'Red flag' means signs exhibited by a person that he may be a harm to himself or others.

Besides, a major portion of $15bn in Federal funding to implement the law will be set aside for mental health programmes and school security upgrades.

Reacting to the Texas shooting, President Biden had pushed for a ban on assault weapons or at least a raise in the age limit for purchasing arms. But the Democrats did not have a majority in the Congress to pass such legislation. However, an agreement was worked out in the Senate for a minimum programme of background checks for buyers younger than 21 years.

It is significant that the legislation, though a patch-up one, received at least nominal support from the pro-gun lobby Republicans for a compromise deal. Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, a likely candidate for 2024 election, said the Bill "try to disarm law-abiding citizens rather than take serious measures to protect our children".

More than 20,900 people have been killed in gun violence in the US this year, including homicide and suicide, according to Gun Violence Archive.

The Constitution's Second Amendment gives the right to "keep and bear arms".

Supreme Court strikes down New York law on gun licence

Meanwhile, even as a furious campaign against gun violernce is surging, the Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a New York law that restricts gun-carrying rights. The law required citizens to prove "proper cause" or a good reason to carry firearms in public. Applicants seeking a concealed carry licence had to demonstrate a special need for self- defence. The verdict, in fact, expands the gun rights. The court said the law violates the US Constitution.

The six conservative judges ruled that Americans have a right to carry "commonly used" firearms in public for personal defence. The three liberal justices - Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer - disagreed.

The Supreme Court was reversing a lower court order which upheld the 108-year-old New York law (year 1913) that restricted issue of gun licence.

"This ruling contradicts both common sense and the Constitution, and should deeply trouble us all," President Biden said. He is "deeply disappointed by the decision."

New York Governor Kathy Hochul, Democrat, tweeted, "outrageous that at a moment of national reckoning on gun violence, the Supreme Court has recklessly struck down a New York law that limits those who can carry concealed weapons."

The Supreme Court verdict followed an appeal by two plaintiffs against denial of gun licences to them.

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