Senate group breaks deadlock, announces gun deal

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Senate negotiators announced a bipartisan framework responding to last month’s mass shootings in the United States.

The proposal represents a modest breakthrough, offering measured curbs on guns and enhanced efforts to improve school safety and mental health programs.

The framework falls far short of the tougher measures long sought by President Joe Biden and many Democrats. But the deal was passed by Mr. Biden and its signing into law would signal a significant reversal after years of gun killings that ended only in a deadlock in Congress.

US President Joe Biden said the framework reflected ‘significant steps in the right direction’ (Evan Vucci/AP)

Mr Biden said in a statement that the framework ‘does not do everything I think is necessary, but it reflects important steps in the right direction, and would be the most important gun safety legislation to pass. by Congress for decades.

Given the bipartisan support, “there’s no excuse for a delay, and no reason it shouldn’t pass quickly through the Senate and the House,” he said.

Leaders hope to push through any deal quickly — they hope to do so this month — before the political momentum sparked by recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, fades.

People take part in the second March For Our Lives rally in support of gun control outside the Washington Monument on Saturday
A March For Our Lives rally in support of gun control on Saturday (Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP)

In a significant development, 20 senators, including 10 Republicans, released a statement calling for the framework to be adopted. This is potentially crucial because the biggest hurdle to passing the measure is likely to be in the 50-50 Senate, where at least 10 votes from the Republican Party will be needed to reach the usual 60-vote threshold for approval.

“Families are scared, and it’s our duty to come together and do something that will help restore their sense of safety in their communities,” the lawmakers said.

The group, led by Senators Chris Murphy, John Cornyn, Thom Tillis and Krysten Sinema, produced the deal after two weeks of closed-door talks.

Senator Chris Murphy
Senator Chris Murphy was among the group of senators who helped craft the deal (Susan Walsh/AP)

The compromise would make juvenile records of gun buyers under 21 available when they undergo a background check.

The suspects who killed 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo and 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde were both 18, and many of the assailants who have carried out mass shootings in recent years have been young.

The deal would offer money to states to implement “red flag” laws that make it easier to temporarily take guns from people considered potentially violent and to bolster school safety and mental health programs.

Some people who sell firearms informally for profit would be required to obtain federal dealer licenses, which means they would have to perform background checks on buyers. Convicted domestic abusers who did not live with a former partner, such as estranged ex-boyfriends, would be prohibited from buying guns, and it would be a crime for a person to legally buy a gun for someone who would not be eligible for ownership.

Negotiators said the details and legislative language would be drafted in the coming days. Congressional aides said billions of US dollars would be spent to increase the number of community mental health centers and suicide prevention programs, but other spending figures remained undecided.

Finalizing the deal could produce further disputes and it was unclear how long that would take. But underscoring election-year pressures from Buffalo and Uvalde, the parties’ shared desire to demonstrate a response to those shootings suggested the momentum toward enactment was strong.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for the Democrats called the deal a “good first step in ending the continued inaction in the face of the gun violence epidemic” and said he would submit the measure final vote as soon as possible.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, for the Republicans, who backed the talks, was more reserved. He praised the work of negotiators and said he hoped for a deal that would make “meaningful progress on key issues such as mental health and school safety, respect the Second Amendment, enjoy broad support in the Senate and would make a difference to our country.”

The deal was quickly endorsed by groups that support gun restrictions, including Brady, Everytown For Gun Safety and March For Our Lives, which held rallies across the country on Saturday.

The National Rifle Association said in a statement that it opposes gun control and undermines the “fundamental right of people to protect themselves and their loved ones”, but supports increased security school, mental health and law enforcement. The group has a long history of lobbying millions of gun-owning voters to derail gun control campaigns in Congress.

The deal represents a lowest-common-denominator compromise on gun violence, not a sea change in Congress. Lawmakers demonstrated a new desire to move forward after saying their constituents have shown an increased desire for congressional action since Buffalo and Uvalde, but Republicans still oppose more sweeping measures Democrats want .

These include banning assault-style firearms such as the AR-15-style rifles used in Buffalo and Uvalde, or raising the legal age to purchase them.

The last major gun restrictions enacted by lawmakers was the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, which Congress allowed to expire 10 years later.

For years, congressional Republicans representing pro-gun rural voters have blocked tough restrictions on gun purchases, citing the Constitution’s Second Amendment.

Democrats, whose voters overwhelmingly support gun restrictions, have been reluctant to endorse progressive measures they say would leave Republican lawmakers saying they tried to stem the tide of violence without solving the problem significantly.

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