June 14, 2022
It’s a small, but significant, start: Senate negotiators announced on Sunday, June 12, that they had struck a bipartisan deal on a narrow set of gun safety measures with sufficient support to move through the evenly divided chamber—a compelling step toward ending a yearslong Congressional impasse on the issue, reports The New York Times.
The agreement—put forth by 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats and endorsed by President Joe Biden and top Democrats—includes enhanced background checks to give authorities time to check the juvenile and mental health records of any prospective gun buyer under the age of 21; and a provision that would, for the first time, extend to dating partners a prohibition on domestic abusers having guns.
It also would provide funding for states to enact so-called red-flag laws that allow authorities to temporarily confiscate guns from people deemed to be dangerous, as well as money for mental health resources and to bolster safety and mental health services at schools.
The outline has yet to be finalized and still faces what the Times characterizes as “a perilous path in Congress,” given the deep partisan divide on gun measures and the political stakes of the issue. It falls far short of the sprawling reforms that Biden, gun control activists, and a majority of Democrats have long championed, such as a ban on assault weapons and universal background checks.
And it is nowhere near as sweeping as a package of gun measures passed almost along party lines in the House last week, which would bar the sale of semiautomatic weapons to people under the age of 21, ban the sale of large-capacity magazines and enact a federal red-flag law, among other steps.
But it amounts to notable progress to begin bridging the considerable gulf between the two political parties on how to address gun violence, which has resulted in a string of failed legislative efforts on Capitol Hill, where Republican opposition has thwarted action for years.
Democrats hailed the plan, which also would toughen federal laws to stop gun trafficking and ensure that all commercial sellers are doing background checks, as an opportunity to pass the most significant gun safety legislation in decades.
“Today, we are announcing a common-sense, bipartisan proposal to protect America’s children, keep our schools safe and reduce the threat of violence across our country,” the 20 senators, led by Christopher Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, and John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, said in a joint statement, adding, “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 backing of 10 Republicans suggested that the plan could scale an obstacle that no other proposal currently under discussion has been able to: drawing the 60 votes necessary to break through a GOP filibuster and survive to see an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.
Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and minority leader who has played a central role in stymieing gun safety measures in recent years, praised what he called “headway” in the discussions even as he was noncommittal about whether he would ultimately support the package.
“The principles they announced today show the value of dialogue and cooperation,” Mr. McConnell said. “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.”
Research contact: @nytimes