Congress Announces Deal on Gun Reform, Mental Health Funding and School Security

Senate members involved in bipartisan negotiations on the issue of gun law reform in response to a recent spate of mass shootings announced they had reached a deal on Sunday.

News of the provisions was first broken by The Washington Post Sunday morning, and was confirmed on Twitter shortly before noon ET by lead Democratic negotiator Chris Murphy.

The legislation includes an extension of background checks for those under 21 to search juvenile justice records, as well as a federal grant program that will encourage states to pass red flag laws that allow family members or law enforcement officers to petition the courts. temporarily prohibit certain persons from possessing firearms. It also prohibits those convicted of domestic violence from possessing a firearm.

Other provisions in the agreement, the senator said, include “billions” in funding for mental health treatment programs and efforts to improve safety in schools across the country, as well as language aimed at combating firearms trafficking.

Passing legislation in the current 50-50 Senate is an uphill battle, and gun laws are an issue where Republicans have had few compromises in the past. But Murphy’s Twitter thread on Sunday stated that the negotiating team had received commitments from 10 Republicans to vote for the bill, the necessary support to overcome a filibuster.

“Will this bill do everything we need to end the epidemic of gun violence in our country? No. But it is real, meaningful progress. And it breaks a 30-year block, showing that Democrats and Republicans can work together in a way that really saves lives,” said Mr. Murphy.

Drafting this law and passing it through both chambers will not be easy. We’ve got a long way to go before this makes it to the president’s desk. But with your help and activism, we can make this happen. Failure may not be an option this time,” added the Connecticut Democrat, site of the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre.

John Cornyn, the senior GOP senator from Texas and leading Republican negotiator in the talks, later reaffirmed his support as well as the support of nine other Republicans, including members such as Mitt Romney, Susan Collins and Bill Cassidy in a joint statement released by the negotiating group released. . by his office.

“Today we are announcing a common sense, two-pronged proposal to protect American children, keep our schools safe and reduce the threat of violence in our country. Families are afraid, and it’s our duty to come together and get something done that will help restore their sense of safety and security in their community,” the group said.

“Our plan will increase mental health resources, improve school safety and student support, and help ensure that dangerous criminals and those identified as mentally ill cannot buy weapons. Most importantly, our plan saves lives while protecting the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans. We look forward to gaining broad, bipartisan support and enacting our common sense proposal into law,” the senators added.

Mr. Cornyn is closely aligned with the Senate GOP leadership, so his support for the bill could mean more Republican votes will join the final bill.

Some signs of support came from the Senate’s top Republican himself, Mitch McConnell, who issued a statement praising the efforts of Mr. Murphy and Mr. Cornyn, while not outright stating that he would vote yes on the legislation.

The bill’s announced provisions go beyond what the media had said about the talks so far; until now, many expected a potential deal (if any) to focus on the state-level subsidy program for red flag laws without addressing further restrictions on firearms possession.

However, it doesn’t go as far as gun violence activists or the White House want. The attempt to ban assault rifle possession among 21-year-olds failed to pass law, nor did attempts to ban high-capacity magazines or expand background checks to close the so-called “gun show loophole.” referring to private (unlicensed) firearms sellers can skip performing background checks on their buyers.

Many also wanted assault-style weapons like the AR-15, derivatives of which were used in the recent massacres at Uvalde and Buffalo, to be banned from civilian markets entirely. The powerful semi-automatic rifles have been described as causing absolute carnage, particularly in the Texas school shooting, exacerbating injuries and increasing casualties.

If it makes it to the Senate by 10 or more Republican votes, however, it will still represent the most significant gun reform legislation Congress has passed in more than a decade (assuming it passes the House).

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