Congress approved bipartisan gun control legislation on Friday, making it the first major legislation of its kind in nearly three decades. The U.S. House of Representatives approved the bill in a vote of 234-193 on June 24, one day after the Senate approved the legislation in a vote of 65-33. The bill now moves on to President Biden, who is expected to sign it into law.
The law will enhance background checks for anyone under the age of 21 seeking to buy a gun by requiring that authorities have time to review juvenile records, including mental health records, from the age of 16. The law provides additional federal funds for mental health programs and security in schools, as well as millions of dollars for states to implement “red flag” laws, which allow officials to confiscate guns from people deemed by a court to be too dangerous to own them, and it will close the so-called “boyfriend” loophole by tightening the ban on domestic abusers purchasing a gun. It also strengthens laws that prevent to prevent gun trafficking and “straw purchasing” (or purchasing a gun for someone who would be prevented from doing so on their own).
“Our success today will never be the end of this fight, but this is a beginning,” said Representative Lucy McBath (D-Ga.). McBath, whose son was shot and killed by a white man at a gas station in 2012, became emotional on the House floor, wiping tears as she hugged her Democratic colleagues.
The law received final approval exactly one month after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, when a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers. In 2022 alone, there have been at least 77 incidents of gunfire on school grounds and guns are currently the number one cause of death among children. Since the Uvalde massacre, there has been an outpouring of support for enhanced gun control legislation.
The American Academic of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued several statements supporting gun legislation and gun safety measures, calling for “common-sense solutions that have been proven to reduce these injuries and deaths.”
Related: Here’s why the AAP supports gun control
“Gun violence is a public health epidemic that is injuring and killing children at alarming rates,” the AAP states. “Any death from gun violence is one too many if it’s in your family or your community.”
“This gives us hope. This gives America hope. This gives our communities the sorely needed hope that we have been crying out for, for years and years and years.”
Earlier this month, Matthew McConaughey, a Uvalde native, publicly called on legislators to address gun control. Holding up a pair of green Converse sneakers worn by Maite Rodriguez, one of the Uvalde shooting victims, during his speech in the White House briefing room, McConaughey said, “These are the same green Converse on her feet that turned out to be the only clear evidence that could identify her after the shooting.”
Related: Gun violence is the leading cause of death in children. How can we talk about anything else?
Congress’s approval of the legislation comes just one day after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a New York law that limited carrying guns in public. That decision is expected to spark a flurry of lawsuits seeking to loosen existing state and federal restrictions on gun rights. For now, supporters of the bill are celebrating its approval in Congress.
“As a mother and a constitutional conservative, I’m proud to support this sensible bill that will protect our children and limit violence without infringing on law-abiding citizens’ Second Amendment rights,” said Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming. “Nothing in the bill restricts the rights of responsible gun owners. Period.”
“This gives us hope,” said Rep. McBath. “This gives America hope. This gives our communities the sorely needed hope that we have been crying out for, for years and years and years.”