Biden hails limited US gun reform plan as 'important steps', urges lawmakers to pass it quickly

US President Joe Biden had pushed for far more substantive reforms, including a ban on assault rifles. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG, AFP) - US President Joe Biden on Sunday (June 12) praised limited proposals from senators on curbing gun violence as "important steps", while noting that they fell short of his calls for more radical change.

"Obviously, it does not do everything that I think is needed, but it reflects important steps in the right direction, and would be the most significant gun safety legislation to pass Congress in decades," Mr Biden said in a statement.

"With bipartisan support, there are no excuses for delay, and no reason why it should not quickly move through the Senate and the House."

The President had pushed for far more substantive reforms, including a ban on assault rifles - which were used in shootings at a Texas elementary school that killed 21 people and a New York State supermarket that left 10 dead - or at least an increase in the age at which they can be purchased.

He had also urged lawmakers to strengthen background checks, mandate safe storage of firearms, and allow gun manufacturers to be held liable for crimes committed with their products.

On Sunday, a bipartisan group of US senators reached a tentative deal on new gun-safety legislation following last month's mass shooting in Texas and New York.

Senators led by Democrat Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Republican John Cornyn of Texas said the deal includes giving grants to states to enact and implement "red flag" laws allowing courts to remove guns from potentially dangerous owners, and more funding for mental health services and school safety.

The agreement also includes provisions aimed at improving records available for background checks of younger gun buyers, and would ensure that convicted domestic violence abusers or those with domestic violence restraining orders are included in a national system for background checks.

Significantly, 10 Republicans signed onto the framework, the number that would be needed to edge legislation past an expected filibuster in the Senate.

"Families are scared, and it is our duty to come together and get something done that will help restore their sense of safety and security in their communities," the 20 senators involved in the talks said in a statement.

In addition to providing new resources and trying to keep some weapons from potentially dangerous buyers, the group said it would also protect "the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans".

The agreement is a significant breakthrough after years of very little progress in Congress on gun legislation, but negotiators still must agree on all the details as they draft legislation in coming days.

Some of the negotiators have said they are hopeful that legislation could move before the Senate leaves for a July 4 holiday recess.

Reaching a deal will get harder beyond that as lawmakers increasingly focus on the looming midterm elections.

Remote video URL

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he wants to put the legislation before the full Senate "as soon as possible".

"After an unrelenting wave of gun-related suicides and homicides, including mass shootings, the Senate is poised to act on commonsense reforms to protect Americans where they live, where they shop, and where they learn," Schumer said in a statement.

"We must move swiftly to advance this legislation because if a single life can be saved, it is worth the effort."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.