Senate unveils bipartisan gun safety bill
Senators released the long-awaited text of their bipartisan gun safety bill Tuesday, setting up a possible floor vote on final passage by the end of the week.
The four lead negotiators — Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) — said the legislation would “protect America’s children, keep our schools safe, and reduce the threat of violence across our country.”
”Our legislation will save lives and will not infringe on any law-abiding American’s Second Amendment rights,” the senators said in a statement. “We look forward to earning broad, bipartisan support and passing our commonsense legislation into law.”
The chamber is set to take procedural steps as soon as Tuesday evening to move the bill forward and meet negotiators’ self-imposed timeline to pass the legislation before lawmakers leave Washington for their July Fourth recess. The publication of legislative text marks a significant step forward for the gun safety package, which would amount to Congress’ most significant response to mass shootings in nearly 30 years.
While senators involved in the talks had hoped they’d finalize legislative language last week, talks hit a snag over two problems: how to encourage so-called red flag laws, which allow the seizure of weapons from those deemed a danger to themselves or others, and closing what’s known as the “boyfriend loophole” by broadening limits on firearms purchases by people who have abused romantic partners.
Republicans had raised concerns about the definition of a long-term relationship under those expanded restrictions, as well as about the importance of restoring gun rights to people with misdemeanor convictions. Those issues were resolved Tuesday, according to two people involved in the talks.
“This bill is not going to please everyone,” Cornyn said Tuesday. “But I believe the … same people who are telling us to do something are sending us a clear message: to do what we can to keep our children and communities safe.”
The legislation would change federal law so that if a person assaults a dating partner or a recent former dating partner, that would qualify as domestic violence. As a result, that person would be charged with a misdemeanor and unable to purchase a gun.
Under the deal, that person’s right to purchase a firearm would be reinstated after five years if he or she is not involved in any violent acts or felonies during that period. This would apply to people in this newly created category who are first-time offenders.
Murphy predicted that closing the boyfriend loophole alone would “save the lives of so many women who unfortunately die at the hands of a boyfriend or an ex-boyfriend who hunts them down with a firearm.”
It took nine days after senators announced the framework for the bill for legislative text to near its expected release, a fairly swift timeline for a chamber known to plod on policymaking. Proponents of the legislation said they want to seize on momentum before the Senate’s expected departure at the end of this week for a two-week recess. But absent an agreement from all 100 senators, a vote on final passage of the guns legislation could slip into the weekend.
Nearly a month has passed since a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas. That shooting occurred more than a week after a racist mass shooter killed 10 people, most of them Black, at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y.
In addition to closing the boyfriend loophole, the bill provides grants for states to implement red flag laws or other crisis intervention programs, as well as changes the background check system to include additional scrutiny of juvenile records for gun buyers under the age of 21. The additional background check scrutiny would sunset after 10 years.
The legislation also includes new spending for mental health treatment and school security.
With at least 10 Republicans already announcing support for the framework, enough to break a filibuster, the legislation is expected to pass the Senate in the end. Both Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also endorsed the bipartisan negotiations. Last week, McConnell said he’d back the gun safety legislation if it reflected the framework.
While Cornyn said he’d like 70-plus senators to vote for the legislation, it’s not clear how many more Republicans might back it beyond the 10 signatories of the initial deal and McConnell. Conservatives in the conference pushed back on some of the framework’s provisions during a private GOP lunch last week. And over the weekend, the Texas GOP rebuked Cornyn and the other Republicans for participating in the gun talks.
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Author: By Marianne LeVine