The $13B measure would toughen background checks for youngest gun buyers, keep firearms from more domestic violence offenders and help states put in place red flag laws that make it easier for authorities to seize guns from those deemed dangerous.

The bill passed by 65 votes to 33 and is almost certain to be rubber-stamped by the House of Representatives.
The bill passed by 65 votes to 33 and is almost certain to be rubber-stamped by the House of Representatives. (AP Archive)

US senators advanced a bipartisan bill late Thursday addressing the epidemic of gun violence convulsing the country, approving a narrow package of new firearms restrictions and billions of dollars in mental health and school security funding.

The reforms — which are almost certain to be rubber-stamped by the House of Representatives on Friday — fall short of the demands of gun safety advocates and President Joe Biden, but have been hailed as a life-saving breakthrough after almost 30 years of inaction by Congress.

"This bipartisan legislation will help protect Americans," Biden said in a statement shortly after the Senate vote. "Kids in schools and communities will be safer because of it."

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which was backed by all 50 Democratic senators and 15 Republicans, includes enhanced background checks for buyers under the age of 21, $11 billion in funding for mental health and $2 billion for school safety programs.

It also provides funding to incentivize states to implement "red flag" laws to remove firearms from people considered a threat.

And it closes the so-called "boyfriend" loophole, under which domestic abusers could avoid a ban on buying firearms if they were not married to or living with their victim.

READ MORE: Supreme Court rules Americans have right to carry guns in public

'Historic day'

The Senate and House are on a two-week recess starting next week but the Democratic-controlled House is expected to approve the Senate's bill with little drama before members leave town on Friday night.

"Tonight, the United States Senate is doing something many believed was impossible even a few weeks ago: we are passing the first significant gun safety bill in nearly 30 years," Senate Democratic majority leader Chuck Schumer said after the legislation passed.

His Republican counterpart Mitch McConnell said the legislation would make America safer "without making our country one bit less free."

The breakthrough is the work of a cross-party group of senators who have been hammering out the details and resolving disputes for weeks.

The lawmakers had been scrambling to finish the negotiations quickly enough to capitalize on the momentum generated by the fatal shootings of 19 children in Uvalde, Texas and of 10 Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo, upstate New York, both last month.

Chris Murphy, the senator leading negotiations for Democrats, hailed a "historic day."

The last significant federal gun control legislation was passed in 1994, introducing a national background check system and banning the manufacture for civilian use of assault rifles and large capacity ammunition clips.

But it expired a decade later and there has since been no serious movement on reform, despite rising gun violence.

READ MORE: US lawmakers agree on landmark gun safety bill

Source: TRTWorld and agencies