WASHINGTON – Proclaiming that “lives will be saved,” President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan gun bill Saturday designed to keep weapons away from dangerous people, one month after a horrific elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
“At a time when it seems impossible to get anything done in Washington, we are doing something consequential,” Biden said at the White House, hailing the gun bill as the most significant law of its kind in “the last 30 years.”
Citing a litany of mass shootings from Las Vegas to Parkland, Florida, Biden said people for too long have urged government to “do something” about the gun problem.
“How many times have you heard that?” Biden said. “Just do something; for God’s sake, just do something. Well, today, we did.”
The law enhances background checks on gun buyers 18 to 21 years old. It encourages states to develop better “red flag” laws that would deny guns to people who are deemed to be dangerous.
It adds dating partners to the list of domestic abusers who are prohibited from buying firearms, eliminating the “boyfriend loophole.” Biden cited new crackdowns on gun trafficking and straw purchases.
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Biden signed the bill before departing for Europe and a series of meetings with world leaders over Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Biden said in a soft voice that “God willing,” the law will help “save a lot of lives.”
Last month, 19 children and two adults were killed at an elementary school in Uvalde.
The new law lacks more far-reaching items sought by Biden and congressional Democrats. Republicans balked at those proposals, calling them encroachment on the Second Amendment.
A smaller group of Republicans agreed to the scaled-down gun bill, enough to get it through the Senate while avoiding a filibuster.
Gun rights groups protested the final product. ”These measures were hastily jammed through with ambiguous language and overbroad definitions to appease gun control supporters in Congress,” The National Rifle Association said.
Democrats said they wished the law would go further but supported it as better than nothing. They vowed to push for more restrictions on guns.
“This bill does not do everything we need to end gun violence,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., “but doing nothing was the most extreme option on the table.”
Gun control organizations that have lobbied the government for years praised the legislation.
John Feinblatt, president of the organization Everytown for Gun Safety, called it “a long-overdue step to address a public health crisis that has turned us into a nation of survivors, many of whom have turned their pain into action and their actions into a movement.”
Citing Republican support for the gun law amid a deadlock on other issues, Biden called for bipartisan action on other fronts.
“If we can reach a compromise on guns,” he said, “we ought to be able to reach a compromise on other critical issues on veterans’ health care, cutting-edge American innovation and so much more.”