“To me, this is the best Christmas present I could ever receive," said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.). McCarthy's husband was killed by a gunman on the Long Island Railroad in 1993.
After months of negotiations on the measure, the bill passed both the House and the Senate by a voice vote on Wednesday and now heads to President Bush, who has not yet indicated if he will sign it.
The National Instant Criminal Background System Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 provides additional funding and incentives for states to strengthen the background check system to prevent citizens with mental health problems from obtaining firearms.
On April 16, Virginia Tech student Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 students and himself using two guns he had bought despite a documented history of mental illness and a previous court ruling declaring him a danger to himself, which barred him from purchasing firearms.
While McCarthy first introduced the bill in 2002, the measure got a big boost in the wake of the tragedy.
“The tragic shooting at Virginia Tech in April starkly demonstrated that serious gaps exist in the transmittal of background records, allowing thousands of people who are barred from acquiring guns to escape proper background checks,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
“I hope the president immediately signs this essential legislation.”