A bipartisan package of modest gun safety measures passed the U.S. Senate late on Thursday even as the Supreme Court broadly expanded gun rights by ruling Americans have a constitutional right to carry handguns in public for self-defense.
The landmark court ruling and Senate action on gun safety illustrate the deep divide over firearms in the United States, weeks after mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, killed more than 30 people, including 19 children.
The Senate bill, approved in a 65-33 vote, is the first significant gun control legislation to pass in three decades, in a country with the highest gun ownership per capita in the world and the highest number of mass shootings annually among wealthy nations.
"This bipartisan legislation will help protect Americans. Kids in schools and communities will be safer because of it," U.S. President Joe Biden said following the vote.
The bill, which supporters say will save lives, is modest - its most important restraint on gun ownership would tighten background checks for would-be gun purchasers convicted of domestic violence or significant crimes as juveniles.
Republicans refused to compromise on more sweeping gun control measures favored by Democrats, such as a ban on assault-style rifles or high-capacity magazines.
More than 20,900 people have died from gun violence across the United States and 279 mass shootings have been recorded in the country so far this year, according to the latest data from the nonprofit organization Gun Violence Archive. A mass shooting is characterized as an incident in which at least four people are killed or injured by gunfire, excluding the attacker.
The Supreme Court ruling earlier on Thursday, pushed through by its conservative majority, struck down New York state's limits on carrying concealed handguns outside the home.
The court found that the law, enacted in 1913, violated a person's right to "keep and bear arms" under the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment.
In the Senate vote late on Thursday, 15 Republicans joined all 50 Democrats in voting for the bill.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi applauded the bill's passage and said in a statement it would advance in the House on Friday, with a vote coming as soon as possible.