Senators Present Bipartisan Gun Safety Bill
WASHINGTON – A group of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate released Tuesday a compromise law intended to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous people, and take a substantial step to break a years-long stalemate in Congress over tackling gun violence.
While the legislation falls short of the sweeping gun control measures Democrats have demanded, if passed, it would represent the most significant move in decades to overhaul the country’s gun laws.
The 80-page bill would improve background checks, giving authorities up to 10 business days to review the youth and mental health records of gun buyers under the age of 21, and pump federal dollars to help states implement so-called red flag laws. , which allow authorities to temporarily confiscate weapons from people deemed dangerous. The measure would also, for the first time, see serious dating partners included in a federal law that prohibits domestic violence from purchasing firearms.
The senators also agreed to provide millions of dollars to expand mental health resources in communities and schools, in addition to funds spent on improving school safety. In addition, the legislation would tighten penalties for those who evade licensing requirements or make illegal “straw” purchases, buy guns and then sell them to people who are not allowed to buy guns.
The Senate is expected to pass the legislation Tuesday evening, with lawmakers hoping to pass it before a scheduled July 4 recess. With the framework publicly supported by 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats, as well as President Biden and Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the measure appeared to have enough support to pass the 60-vote threshold needed to move forward in the election. equally divided room. But aides warned that the details would be crucial in determining the final vote.
Both Senate leaders quickly expressed support for the legislation. McConnell called it “a common sense package of popular steps that will help make these horrific incidents less likely while fully respecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”
Majority leader New York Senator Chuck Schumer promised to proceed with a quick test vote on the package. “This bipartisan gun safety legislation is progress and will save lives,” he said. “Although it’s not all we want”† this legislation is urgently needed.”
The flurry of negotiations was sparked by two mass shootings in the past two months: a massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, which killed 19 children and two teachers, and a racist attack that killed 10 black people in a Buffalo supermarket. Human devastation brought the issue of gun violence back to the forefront on Capitol Hill, where years of efforts to enact gun restrictions in the wake of such attacks have failed amid Republican opposition.
Since announcing their agreement on a bipartisan outline less than two weeks ago, chief negotiators—Senators Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, both Democrats, and John Cornyn of Texas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, both Republicans have spent hours working out the details and toiling to keep their fragile coalition together.
“The negotiations have clearly been difficult, but they have been incredibly productive and meaningful,” Mr Murphy said Tuesday ahead of the legislation’s publication. “And you know, I’m proud of where we’re coming from.”
Over the past week, however, talks have repeatedly wavered to the brink of failure as lawmakers struggled during nightly meetings and phone calls on how to translate their outline into legal text. The group spent the three-day weekend negotiating the details of the measure.
“It’s been insanely slow for everyone, but I think we’re ready,” said Mr. Cornyn, on his way to an evening meeting of Republican leaders.
Two provisions proved particularly frustrating in the final days of negotiations: whether to free up funds to implement red flag laws to states that do not have such laws, and how precisely to define a friend or intimate partner, as lawmakers tried to close what has come to be known as the ‘boyfriend loophole’. Current law only prohibits domestic abusers who have married or lived with the victim, or had a child with them, from purchasing a firearm.
The negotiators agreed on dating partners convicted of a felony regaining the right to buy a gun after five years, provided they were first-time offenders and found not guilty of any other violent crime or misdemeanor, Mr. . Cornyn on the Senate Floor.
And lawmakers agreed to give states access to federal funds to either implement red flag laws or enact what Mr. Cornyn described as “crisis intervention programs.”
“Under this bill, any state will be able to use significant new federal dollars to expand their programs to try to stop dangerous people, people who are contemplating mass murder or suicide, from accessing the weapons with which they can commit that crime,” he said. Mr. Murphy in a speech on the Senate floor.
The path to President Biden’s office remains rocky. Republicans on and around Capitol Hill have expressed dismay at the measure’s scope, and Texas Republicans have booed Cornyn and proceeded to formally “reprimand” him and eight other Republicans for their role in the negotiations. And some Democrats, particularly in the House, where they have passed much more ambitious gun reform legislation, have expressed unease at the idea of ”hardening up” schools or stigmatizing mental health issues.
Arms security activists praised the agreement, even if it fell short of many of their goals.
“This bipartisan legislation meets the most important test: It will save lives,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement. “We are now one big step closer to breaking the 26-year blockade that has blocked congressional actions to protect Americans from gun violence.”