Expanded federal background checks for some gun buyers is included in a proposed compromise reached by a bipartisan group of senators. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — The White House and Democratic leaders expressed support Monday for a framework on gun control legislation that 10 Senate Democrats and 10 Senate Republicans agreed to over the weekend.
The second-deadliest school shooting in a decade in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two teachers were murdered on May 24, sparked pressure on Congress to pass gun control legislation, as well as another mass shooting of 10 Black people on May 14 in Buffalo, New York.
“Families are scared, and it is our duty to come together and get something done that will help restore their sense of safety and security in their communities,” the group of bipartisan senators said in a statement.
“Our plan increases needed mental health resources, improves school safety and support for students, and helps ensure dangerous criminals and those who are adjudicated as mentally ill can’t purchase weapons.”
There is currently no bill text, but the framework would:
- Provide funding to states to establish red flag laws.
- Allocate funding for school resources such as mental health and violence prevention programs.
- Require firearm buyers under 21 to undergo a background check that includes a review of juvenile and mental health records.
- Curb the illegal trafficking of guns known as straw purchasing, where someone can acquire a gun for someone else.
- Require that convicted domestic violence abusers and those subject to domestic violence restraining orders are included in background checks, including “those who have or have had a continuing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.”
The nine Senate Democrats and one independent in the bipartisan group are Chris Murphy of Connecticut, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Chris Coons of Delaware, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Mark Kelly of Arizona, Angus King of Maine, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.
The 10 Senate Republicans in the bipartisan group are John Cornyn of Texas, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said in a statement he will schedule a vote for the bill as quickly as possible.
“After an unrelenting wave of gun-related suicides and homicides, including mass shootings, the Senate is poised to act on common-sense reforms to protect Americans where they live, where they shop, and where they learn,” he said.
President Joe Biden said in a statement that the framework “does not do everything that I think is needed, but it reflects important steps in the right direction, and would be the most significant gun safety legislation to pass Congress in decades.”
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the president supports the framework, but is still pushing for Congress to renew a ban on assault weapons and expand background checks on firearms, and is pushing for the Senate to confirm his nomination to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Steve Dettelbach.
“The president wants to see Congress act and wants to see this on his desk as quick as possible,” she said during a Monday press briefing.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement Sunday commending the senators for making progress but didn’t yet endorse the plan.
“I am glad Senators Cornyn and Murphy are continuing to make headway in their discussions. I appreciate their hard work on this important issue,” said the Kentucky Republican. “The principles they announced today show the value of dialogue and cooperation.
“I continue to hope their discussions yield a bipartisan product that makes significant headway on key issues like mental health and school safety, respects the Second Amendment, earns broad support in the Senate, and makes a difference for our country.”
The last time Congress passed major gun control legislation was in 1994, when former President Bill Clinton signed into law a ban on assault riffles. But it was a temporary ban that ended in 2004.
“With bipartisan support, there are no excuses for delay, and no reason why it should not quickly move through the Senate and the House,” Biden said. “Each day that passes, more children are killed in this country: the sooner it comes to my desk, the sooner I can sign it, and the sooner we can use these measures to save lives.”
The framework is short on detail, compared to the House’s gun control package passed last week.
The House package raises the age of purchasing semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21, creates new requirements for storing guns in a home with children, prevents gun trafficking, requires all firearms to be traceable and closes the loophole on bump stocks, devices that increase the rate of fire of semiautomatic weapons, among other things.
It most likely would not be brought to the evenly divided Senate for a floor vote. Any successful Senate proposal would need 60 votes to advance beyond a filibuster.
“This bipartisan proposal is a first and necessary step to reduce gun violence in our communities,” Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat who was not part of the bipartisan group, said in a statement. “Every moment that Congress does not act, another community bears witness to the heartbreaking consequences of gun violence. That’s why the Senate must move quickly to pass this long overdue proposal.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement that while the Senate proposal is an important step, Congress still needs to do more on gun control.
“America’s epidemic of gun violence has reached a fever pitch — and Democrats will never stop working to end the bloodshed,” Pelosi said. “As we move forward on this bipartisan framework, we are continuing to fight for more life-saving measures: including universal background checks, banning high-capacity magazines and raising the age to buy assault weapons, which must also become law.”
“I joined these negotiations to ensure any agreement addressed illegal gun violence while upholding due process and protecting law-abiding Americans’ 2nd Amendment rights,” Cassidy said in a statement. “This agreement upholds that commitment.”
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