Joe Biden on Saturday signed the most sweeping gun violence bill in decades, a bipartisan compromise that seemed unimaginable until a recent series of mass shootings, including the massacre of 19 students and two teachers at a Texas elementary school.
“Lives will be saved,” the president said at the White House. Citing the families of shooting victims, the president said, “Their message to us was to do something. Well today, we did.”
The House gave final approval on Friday, following Senate passage on Thursday, and Biden acted just before leaving Washington for two summits in Europe.
The legislation will toughen background checks for the 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 take weapons from people adjudged to be dangerous.
Most of its $13bn cost will help bolster mental health programs and aid schools, which have been targeted in Newtown, Connecticut, and Parkland, Florida, and elsewhere in mass shootings.
Biden said the compromise hammered out by a bipartisan group of senators “doesn’t do everything I want” but “it does include actions I’ve long called for that are going to save lives”.
“I know there’s much more work to do, and I’m never going to give up, but this is a monumental day,” said the president, who was joined by his wife, Jill, a teacher, for the signing.
He said they will host an event on 11 July for lawmakers and families affected by gun violence.
Biden signed the measure two days after the supreme court’s ruling striking down a New York law that restricted people’s ability to carry concealed weapons.
While the new law does not include tougher restrictions long championed by Democrats, such as a ban on assault-style weapons and background checks for all gun transactions, it is the most impactful firearms violence measure produced by Congress since enactment of a long-expired assault weapons ban in 1993.
Enough congressional Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the steps after recent rampages in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas. It took weeks of closed-door talks but senators emerged with a compromise.
Biden signed the bill just before he departed Washington for a summit of the Group of Seven leading economic powers – the United States, Bretaña, Canadá, Francia, Alemania, Italy and Japan – in Germany. He will travel later to Spain for a Nato meeting.