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US Congress inches forward with gun violence measure
[WASHINGTON] As thousands of students protested Wednesday demanding action from Congress on firearms curbs, US lawmakers took their first major step to address gun violence since a deadly shooting at a Florida high school one month ago.
The legislature has yet to tackle the more controversial aspects of gun control in the aftermath of the shooting at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, namely the restriction of certain weapons, age limits for purchases, or the expansion of background checks.
But the House of Representatives did vote overwhelmingly Wednesday to fund violence prevention measures at the nation's schools including boosting school security and creating anonymous reporting systems for students.
The STOP School Violence Act was introduced by Republican congressman John Rutherford, a former sheriff of Jacksonville, Florida, and co-sponsored by House Democrat Ted Deutch, who represents the district that includes Parkland.
It passed by 407 to 10. A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate.
The White House said President Donald Trump "applauded" House lawmakers for taking "an important step towards keeping American students safe." "It is critical that we strengthen our laws in order to aid our law enforcement, address the needs of individuals struggling with serious mental illness, and develop proactive strategies for identifying and preventing violence in schools," Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
The legislation, which provides US$75 million annually, would fund development of "intervention teams" as well as training for school officials and students in preventing violence and for responding to mental health crises.
It would also fund physical improvements like more metal detectors and better locks.
House Democrat Jerrold Nadler supported the bill, but said it was "shameful" that Congress has so far failed to reduce the gun violence threat to children.
"This bill does not include any provisions to strengthen our gun laws or to help keep guns out of the hands of those who should not possess them," he said.
A raft of other proposals are being considered in the House and Senate, including bills that expand background checks, allow for gun violence protection orders and increase punishments for people who attempt to purchase guns despite being banned from doing so.
Mr Trump had signaled support for raising the federal minimum age from 18 to 21 for purchasing semi-automatic rifles, but he has been accused of backtracking under pressure from the powerful pro-gun lobby.