Senate negotiators reached agreement Tuesday on a bipartisan gun violence bill, the two top party negotiators said, voting this week on an additional but notable package that would be Congress’ response to the mass shootings in the Texas and New York that shook the nation.
Nine days after Senate negotiators agreed to a framework proposal — and 29 years after Congress last passed major gun restrictions — Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters that final agreement on the details of the proposal has been reached.
The legislation would toughen background checks on younger gun buyers, force more sellers to complete background checks, and toughen penalties for gun smugglers. It would also give money to states and communities to improve school safety and mental health initiatives.
Addressing the final two hurdles that have held up a deal since last week, the bill would prohibit dating partners convicted of domestic violence who are not married to their victim from obtaining firearms. And it would provide money to the 19 states and the District of Columbia that have “red flag” laws that make it easier to temporarily take guns from people deemed dangerous, and to other states that have prevention programs. violence.
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Lawmakers released the 80-page bill on Tuesday evening. Aides estimated the measure would cost around $15 billion, of which Murphy would be paid in full.
The legislation lacks much more powerful proposals that President Joe Biden supports and that Democrats have pushed for years unsuccessfully, derailed by GOP opposition. These include banning assault weapons or raising the minimum age to buy them, banning high-capacity magazines, and requiring background checks for virtually all gun sales.
Yet, if passed, the election-year deal would highlight a small but telling shift on an issue that has defied compromise since Bill Clinton was president.
After 10 black shoppers were killed last month in Buffalo, New York, and 19 children and two teachers died days later in Uvalde, Texas, Democrats and some Republicans decided that this time measured measures were preferable to the usual Congressional reaction to such horrors – impasse.
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Murphy said that after the Buffalo and Uvalde murders, “I saw a level of fear on the faces of parents and children I spoke to that I had never seen before.” He said his colleagues had also encountered anxiety and fear among voters “not only for the safety of their children, but also for the government’s ability to stand up at this time and do something, and to do something meaningful.”
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This bill, Murphy said, was a partisan breakthrough that would “save thousands of lives.” Prior to entering the Senate, his House district included Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and six staff members died in a 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“Some think it goes too far, others think it doesn’t go far enough. And I understand. That’s the nature of compromise,” Cornyn said.
But he added: “I believe that the same people telling us to do something are sending us a clear message, to do what we can to keep our children and our communities safe. I am convinced that this legislation takes us in a positive direction.
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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said his chamber would immediately begin debating the measure and move to final passage “as quickly as possible.” And in a positive sign about his fate, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voiced his support, calling it “a popular, common-sense set of measures that will help make these horrific incidents less likely while respecting fully the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”
The National Rifle Association, which has spent decades derailing gun control legislation, said it opposes the measure. “It is insufficient at all levels. It does little to truly tackle violent crime while opening the door to unnecessary charges over the exercise of Second Amendment freedom by law-abiding gun owners,” the group said. gun pressure.
It seemed likely that a majority of Republicans — especially in the House — would oppose the legislation. Underscoring the backlash GOP lawmakers supporting the pact would face from more conservative voters, delegates booed Cornyn at his state’s Republican convention in Houston on Saturday as he outlined the measure.
The measure will require at least 10 GOP votes to reach the 60-vote threshold that major bills often need in the 50-50 Senate. Ten Republican senators had joined 10 Democrats in supporting the framework, and Cornyn told reporters that “I think there will be at least” 10 GOP votes for the measure.
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What is uncertain is whether the agreement and its passage would mark the beginning of slow but incremental congressional action to curb gun violence, or the culmination of the issue. Until Buffalo and Uvalde, a numbing parade of mass murders — at sites including elementary and high schools, places of worship, military installations, bars and the Las Vegas Strip — resulted in only a stalemate in Washington.
“Thirty years, murder after murder, suicide after suicide, shooting after shooting, Congress has done nothing,” Murphy said. “This week we have a chance to break that 30-year period of silence with a bill that changes our laws in a way that will save thousands of lives.”
Congress banned assault-style firearms in 1993 as part of a ban that expired after a decade, lawmakers’ last sweeping legislation dealing with gun violence.
The senators did not initially describe how they resolved the two main stumbling blocks that had delayed agreement on the plan’s legislative language.
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One was how to make abusive romantic partners subject to the current ban that abusive spouses face on getting firearms. The other was to provide federal assistance to states that have “red flag” laws that facilitate the temporary removal of firearms from people deemed dangerous or to states that have violence intervention programs.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said his goal is to have his chamber debate and vote on the legislation this week. Momentum in Congress for gun legislation tends to wane quickly after mass shootings. Lawmakers are due to begin a two-week break on July 4 at the end of this week.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he supported the negotiators announced last weekend. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, also said she supports the effort and seems sure to get votes in place as soon as possible.
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