August 4, 2022

Democratic senator says deal on gun violence bill is within reach

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate negotiators reached agreement Tuesday on a bipartisan gun violence bill, potentially heralding final passage by the end of the week on a progressive but historic package that would be the government’s response. Congress to the mass shootings in Texas and New York that shook the nation.

Lawmakers released the 80-page bill nine days after agreeing on a framework for the plan and 29 years after Congress last passed major gun restrictions. He cleared an initial procedural hurdle by 64-34, with 14 Republicans joining the 48 Democrats and two allied independents in voting yes. That strongly supported a prediction by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., of approval later this week. Passage through the Democratic-led House could follow quickly.

Although Republicans blocked tighter restrictions sought by Democrats, the deal marks an election-year breakthrough on an issue that pits loyal gun owners and rural GOP voters against the Democrats’ urban supporters. for gun restrictions. That makes it one of the most incendiary culture war battlegrounds in politics and a sensitive vote for some lawmakers, especially Republicans who could alienate Second Amendment stalwarts.

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.

Aides estimated the measure would cost about $15 billion, which Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, the top Democratic negotiator, said would be fully paid for.

Addressing a final hurdle that has delayed the deal, the bill would bar dating partners convicted of domestic violence who are unmarried to their victims from obtaining firearms. Convicted abusers who are married, live with, or have children with their victims are already prohibited from having firearms.

The compromise prohibits firearms for a person who has “a current or recent romantic relationship with the victim.” This is defined in part as a relationship between people “who have or have recently had an ongoing serious relationship of a romantic or intimate nature. “An offender’s ability to possess a firearm could be restored after five years if he has not committed another serious crime.

On another late-night dispute, the bill would provide $750 million to the 19 states and the District of Columbia that have “red flag” laws facilitating the temporary taking of firearms from people deemed dangerous, and to other states with violence prevention programs. the “red flag” laws that receive the funds should provide legal procedures for the gun owner to fight the removal of the gun.

Momentum in Congress for gun legislation tends to wane quickly after mass shootings. Lawmakers are due to begin a two-week hiatus on July 4 by this weekend.

The legislation lacks far more powerful proposals that President Joe Biden supports and that Democrats have pushed unsuccessfully for years, 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 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, measures measures were preferable to the usual congressional response to such horrors. – traffic jam.

Murphy said that after Buffalo and Uvalde, “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 among voters “not only for the safety of their children, but also a fear about the government’s ability to stand up at this time and do something, and to do something meaningful.”

This bill, Murphy said, “would save thousands of lives.” Prior to entering the Senate, his district included Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and six staff members died in a 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Chief GOP negotiator, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, said of the pact, “Some think it goes too far, some think it doesn’t go far enough. And I understand. That’s the nature of compromise.”

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.”

In a positive sign about his fate, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., voiced his support, calling it “a grassroots, common-sense set of measures that will help make these horrific incidents less probable while fully respecting the rights of the Second Amendment law. – respectful citizens.

The National Rifle Association, which has spent decades derailing gun control legislation, has voiced its opposition. “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 far-right voters, delegates booed Cornyn at his state’s Republican convention in Houston on Saturday as he outlined the proposal.

In another measure of conservative sentiment, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, a potential Republican 2024 presidential candidate, tweeted that the bill “ignores the national crime wave and instead smashes the fundamental rights of law-abiding citizens. “. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., a potential White House candidate, said it would “curtail the freedoms of law-abiding Americans and put too much power in the hands of politicians and politicians.”

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. Cornyn told reporters he expected at least 10 GOP votes for the measure.

What is uncertain is whether the passage would mark the start of slow but gradual 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.

The bill would require federal background checks of gun buyers between the ages of 18 and 20 to include a review of the buyer’s juvenile record. This could add up to seven additional days to the current three-day limit on background checks.

The suspects in the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings were both 18, a profile that matches many recent mass shooters.

There would be hundreds of millions of dollars to expand community behavioral health centers, telemedicine visits for mental health specialists, and training first responders to care for people with mental health issues. More than $2 billion would be provided to hire and train staff for school mental health services, including $300 million to improve school safety.

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.

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Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report.

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