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Biden signs gun safety bill into law, takes swipe at Supreme Court

US President Joe Biden signs S. 2938: Bipartisan Safer Communities Act into law from the Roosevelt Room at the White House as first lady Jill Biden stands next to him in Washington, US, June 25, 2022. (Reuters photo)

US President Joe Biden has signed into law the first major gun safety legislation passed by Congress in three decades, days after a decision he denounced by the Supreme Court expanding firearm owners' rights.

"God willing, it's going to save a lot of lives," Biden said on Thursday at the White House after signing the bill.

The legislation came together just over a month after mass shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo that killed more than 30 people.

 On May 24, nineteen students and two teachers were shot and killed at Robb Elementary School by a gunman in Uvalde, Texas, 10 days after a mass shooting at a store in Buffalo, New York, left 10 Black people dead.

Police say the gunman, identified as 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, entered the school with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle after shooting his grandmother, who survived.

More than 45,000 people were killed by gun violence in the United States last year, up from 43,671 in 2020 and 39,581 in 2019, according to FBI data.

"While this bill doesn't do everything I want, it does include actions I've long called for that are going to save lives," Biden said just before signing the measure.

"Today, we say more than enough. We say more than enough," he added. "At a time when it seems impossible to get anything done in Washington, we are doing something consequential."

"At this time when it seems impossible to get anything done in Washington, we are doing something consequential: If we can reach compromise on guns, we oughta be able to reach compromise on other critical issues," Biden said before traveling to Germany for the Group of Seven rich nations summit.

"I know there's much more work to do, and I'm never gonna give up. But this is a monumental day."

The legislation was passed by the House 234-193 Friday night following Senate approval on Thursday. It includes incentives for states to pass so-called red flag laws that allow groups to petition courts to remove weapons from people deemed a threat to themselves or others.

In addition, the bill expands an existing law that prevents people convicted of domestic abuse from owning a gun to include dating partners rather than just spouses and former spouses.

The legislation also expands background checks on people between the ages of 18 and 21 seeking to buy a gun.

The powerful gun lobby said in a statement it opposed the legislation and proposed a bill that will improve school safety, promote mental health services and help reduce violence.

"This legislation can be abused to restrict lawful gun purchases, infringe upon the rights of law-abiding Americans, and use federal dollars to fund gun control measures being adopted by state and local politicians," the National Rifle Association (NRA) said in a statement on Tuesday.

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy called the bill a compromise right before the Senate vote began Thursday.

"It doesn't do everything I want," added Murphy, who led the negotiations between 10 Senate Republicans and 10 Democrats. "But what we are doing will save thousands of lives without violating anyone's Second Amendment rights."

On Thursday, the US Supreme Court ruled that Americans have a fundamental right to carry handguns in public, despite a surge in gun violence across the country.

The 6-3 landmark decision will have far-reaching implications for American states and cities grappling with violence caused by firearms.

Biden condemned the decision, saying it "contradicts both common sense and the Constitution, and should deeply trouble us all."

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul called the decision "reckless" and "reprehensible."

"Our states and our governors have a moral responsibility to do what we can because of what is going on: The insanity of the gun culture that has now possessed everyone all the way up to even to the Supreme Court," Hochul said shortly after the decision Thursday.

Biden earlier this month called for banning semi-automatic, assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines, or at least raising the minimum age to buy those weapons from 18 to 21. The gunmen in the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings were both 18 and used semi-automatic rifles.

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