By ALAN FRAM – Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate negotiators Sunday announced a bipartisan framework in response to last month’s mass shootings, a remarkable but limited breakthrough that included modest gun restrictions and stepped up efforts to improve school safety and mental health programs.
The proposal falls far short of the tougher steps President Joe Biden and many Democrats had long pursued. Still, the accord was embraced by Biden, and its entry into force would mark a significant turning point after years of gunfights that have resulted in little more than a stalemate in Congress.
Biden said in a statement that the framework “doesn’t do everything I think is necessary, but it reflects important steps in the right direction and would be the most important gun safety legislation Congress would pass in decades.”
Given the bipartisan support, “there are no excuses for delaying, and no reason why it shouldn’t go through the Senate and House soon,” he said.
Leaders hope to force any agreement into law soon — they hope this month — before the political momentum sparked by the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas fades. The participants warned that the final details and legislation are yet to be finalized, meaning new disputes and delays could arise.
In a consistent development, 20 senators, including 10 Republicans, have issued a statement calling for approval. That’s potentially crucial because the biggest obstacle to enacting the measure is likely to lie in the 50-50 Senate, where at least 10 GOP votes will be needed to reach the usual 60-vote threshold for approval.
“Families are scared, and it’s our duty to come together and get something done that will help restore their sense of safety and security in their communities,” lawmakers said. The group, led by Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. , John Cornyn, R-Texas, Thom Tillis, RN.C. and Krysten Sinema, D-Ariz., came to the agreement after two weeks of closed-door talks.
The compromise would make the youth files of gun buyers under the age of 21 available when they undergo background checks. The suspects who killed 10 black people in a Buffalo supermarket and 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde were both 18, and many perpetrators of the mass shootings in recent years are young.
The agreement would provide money for states to enact and enact “red flag” laws that make it easier to temporarily purchase weapons from people deemed potentially violent, plus money to support school safety and to enhance mental health.
Some people who informally sell guns for profit would be required to obtain federal dealer licenses, meaning they would have to do background checks on buyers. Convicted home abusers who do not live with a former partner, such as estranged ex-boyfriends, should not be allowed to purchase firearms, and it would be a crime for a person to legally purchase a gun for someone ineligible for ownership.
Congressional officials said billions of dollars would be spent expanding the number of community mental health centers and suicide prevention programs. But they said some spending decisions are unresolved, as are final wordings about juvenile files and other gun regulations that could prove controversial.
But despite pressure from Buffalo and Uvalde in the election year, the parties’ shared desire to demonstrate a response to those shootings provided strong momentum toward enactment.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., called the accord “a good first step to end the continued passivity of the gun violence epidemic” and said he would put the completed measure to a vote as soon as possible.
Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has supported the talks, was more reluctant. He praised the negotiators’ work and said he hopes for a deal that “makes significant progress on important issues such as mental health and school safety, respects the Second Amendment, gains broad support in the Senate and makes a difference to our country.”
The agreement was quickly endorsed by groups supporting gun restrictions, including Brady, Everytown for Gun Safety and March for Our Lives, who held rallies across the country on Saturday.
The National Rifle Association said in a statement that it opposes gun control and infringement of people’s “fundamental right to protect themselves and their loved ones,” but supports strengthening school safety, mental health and law enforcement. The group has long wielded power over millions of voters who own firearms to derail gun controls in Congress.
The deal represents a lowest common denominator compromise on gun violence, not a complete turnaround in Congress. Lawmakers have expressed a renewed desire to move forward after saying their voters have shown a heightened desire for congressional action since Buffalo and Uvalde, but Republicans are still resisting more sweeping steps Democrats want and the accord of Sunday let it go.
These include banning assault-style firearms, such as the AR-15 rifles used in Buffalo and Uvalde, or raising the legal age to purchase them. AR-15s are popular and powerful semi-automatic weapons capable of firing high-capacity magazines and have been used in many of the country’s most notable massacres in recent years. One, the murder of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, happened six years ago on Sunday.
Democrats also wanted to ban high-capacity magazines and extend the required background checks to many more gun purchases. None of those proposals stand a chance in Congress.
The Democrat-controlled House emphasized that last week passed sweeping bills that would ban the sale of semiautomatic weapons to under-21s and large-capacity magazines, and give federal courts the power to decide when local authorities want to remove weapons. of people considered dangerous. Currently, only 19 states and the District of Columbia have red flag laws. Those measures will lead nowhere in the Senate, where Republicans can block them.
The last major firearms restrictions passed by lawmakers was the 1994 assault weapons ban, which Congress repealed ten years later.
For years, Congressional Republicans representing nationwide, pro-gun voters have blocked strict restrictions on firearms purchases, citing the Second Amendment to the Constitution.
Democrats, whose voters are overwhelmingly in favor of gun restrictions, are reluctant to approve incremental steps they thought would get GOP lawmakers to claim attempted to stem the tide of violence without addressing the issue in any meaningful way. to grab.
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