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The Senate takes a huge step towards gun safety legislation
There’s still a lot of work to turn a just-announced framework into legislation and Democrats may be disappointed by what’s left out, but negotiators are on track to pass a meaningful compromise.
Dropping by on this Sunday afternoon with a bit of news: A group of Senate Democrats and Republicans — led by Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut and John Cornyn, a Texas Republican — announced a framework on a set of gun safety reforms that it says will protect America’s children, keep our schools safe and reduce the threat of violence across the country.
There’s still plenty of work ahead though: Negotiators and their staff must now translate their agreement into legislative text for their colleagues to review and vote on. But if the 10 Republicans who signed the announcement maintain their support through the rest of the process, Senate Democrats should have the votes to pass the bill. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer expressed his support for the framework moments after the announcement and said he would schedule a vote as soon as the text is finalized.
“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," the senators said in a joint statement. "Most importantly, our plan saves lives while also protecting the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans. We look forward to earning broad, bipartisan support and passing our commonsense proposal into law.”
The announcement is a response to a weary nation beset by relentless mass shootings, including in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas last month.
The framework provides funding to states and tribes to create and enforce “red flag laws” that would remove guns from people whom a court has determined to be a significant danger to themselves and others.
It would also invest in mental health and suicide prevention programs and enhance protections for survivors of intimate partner violence.
Additionally, the framework funds school safety programs, including training for school personnel and students, and makes it harder for criminals to evade licensing requirements.
“Families are scared,” the senators said in the statement. ”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 framework excludes a ban on assault weapons and doesn’t raise the age to purchase them to 21 from 18, two provisions in a package House Democrats passed last week in hopes that they could miraculously find a home in the Senate version. There also won’t be a safe-storage requirement in the Senate framework.
Speaking of House Democrats, there’s no word on if the caucus will support the framework.
In an interview with Dana Bash on CNN’s State of the Union, Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said that she was uninterested in voting for a toothless bill that didn’t offer a meaningful solution to the gun violence crisis.
“I am disappointed to hear vote a focus on increased criminalization and juvenile criminalization, instead of really having the focus on guns. But the background checks provision is encouraging,” Ocasio-Cortez added. “So I think we need to really look at the text. And once we look at that text, I think we will be able to see if this legislation has been responsibly put together. And I hope — it is my hope that it has been.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the framework a step and the right direction and said she was glad a proposal by House Democrats to incentivize states to establish extreme risk protection order laws and a House-passed measure to combat straw purchases were included.
“America’s epidemic of gun violence has reached a fever pitch — and Democrats will never stop working to end the bloodshed,” Pelosi said in a statement. “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.”
President Joe Biden, who promised voters that he’d broker these types of bipartisan compromises, said in a statement that although the framework does less than he thinks is needed, it reflects important steps in the right direction and would be the most significant legislation to pass Congress in decades.
“With bipartisan support, there are no excuses for delay and no reason why it should not quickly move through the Senate and the House,” he said. “Each day that passes, more children are killed in this country: The sooner it comes to my desk, the sooner I can sight in and the sooner we can use these measures to save lives.”