President Joe Biden signed into law the most sweeping legislation aimed at preventing gun violence in 30 years at the White House on Saturday shortly before departing for Europe for a series of meetings with world leaders.
Biden called the signing of the legislation a “monumental day” and said it was proof that Democrats and Republicans could find common ground on important issues.
“God willing, it’s going to save a lot of lives,” he said.
The bill provides grants to states for “red flag” laws, enhances background checks to include juvenile records, and closes the “boyfriend loophole” by keeping guns away from unmarried dating partners convicted of abuse. It will also require enhanced background checks for people ages 18 to 21 and funding for youth mental health services.
The bipartisan gun legislation sped through Congress in the month after a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas. Democrats unanimously voted in favor of the bill along with more than two dozen Republicans in the House and the Senate, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
“When it seems impossible to get anything done in Washington, we are doing something consequential,” Biden said. “If we can reach a compromise on guns, we ought to be able to reach a compromise on other critical issues, from veterans health care to cutting-edge American innovation to so much more.”
He had pleaded with lawmakers to pass legislation tightening gun laws following the shootings in Buffalo, New York, and in Uvalde. But the bill stopped short of his call for Congress to ban assault weapons and to require background checks for all gun purchases, both of which are widely opposed by Republicans in Congress.
“I know there’s much more work to do, and I’m never going to give up, but this is a monumental day,” Biden said. “God bless us with the strength to get the work left done.”
The bill gives Biden a win following two major blows from the Supreme Court over the past week. The court ruled Friday to overturn Roe v. Wade, eliminating a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. And on Thursday, it struck down a New York law that required showing a special need to get a permit to carry a concealed handgun in public.
“I think the Supreme Court has made some terrible decisions,” Biden said when asked about those rulings by a reporter.
Biden signed the gun legislation moments before heading to Europe for a week of meetings with Group of Seven leaders in Germany and with NATO leaders in Spain. When he returns, he said, he plans to have an event at the White House with the lawmakers who helped pass the bill.
Shannon Pettypiece is the senior White House reporter for NBCNews.com.