A bipartisan group of senators announced an agreement in principle on gun safety legislation Sunday, which includes “necessary mental health resources, improves school safety and student support, and helps ensure dangerous criminals and those who are declared mentally ill cannot buy weapons”. ”, they said in a statement.
Notably, the announcement includes the support of 10 Republican senators, which would give the proposal enough support to overcome Senate filibuster. The deal is significant given how divided lawmakers have been on the gun issue, but the actual legislative text is yet to be written.
The proposal includes support for state crisis intervention orders, funding for school safety resources, an improved review process for buyers under the age of 21, and penalties for false purchases.
Critically, the legislation includes a so-called red flag provision, in which the government provides “resources to states and tribes to create and administer laws that help ensure deadly weapons are kept out of the hands of people who a court has determined that they are an important”. danger to themselves or others,” according to the statement. The proposal would also include “major investments to increase access to mental health and suicide prevention programs; and other support services available in the community, including crisis and trauma intervention and recovery.”
In addition, the legislation would provide resources “to expand mental health and support services in schools, including: early identification and intervention programs and comprehensive and mental health services in schools.”
And it would address an area that Republicans have focused on in recent weeks: school safety. The lawmakers said in their statement that the proposal provides money “to help institute safety measures in and around elementary and secondary schools,” while supporting “school violence prevention efforts” and employee training. and school students.
As for the enhanced review process for buyers under the age of 21, lawmakers said the proposal “requires an investigation period to review juvenile and mental health records, including checks with state databases and law enforcement.” local”.
The group in the statement includes Republican Senators John Cornyn of Texas, Thom Tillis and Richard Burr of North Carolina, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Rob Portman of Ohio, Utah’s Mitt Romney and Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey. Democratic senators at the launch include Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly of Arizona, Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Chris Coons of Delaware, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. It also includes Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent who is running with Democrats.
President Joe Biden said Sunday that the deal “doesn’t do everything I think is needed, but it reflects important steps in the right direction.”
If passed, Biden wrote, the framework would mark “the most important gun safety legislation passed by Congress in decades,” adding: “With bipartisan support, there is no excuse for delay and no reason why it shouldn’t.” must make rapid progress in the Senate. and the House.”
“Every day that passes, more children are dying in this country – the sooner it gets to my desk, the sooner I can sign it, and the sooner we can use these life-saving measures.”
Biden also thanked Murphy, who led the negotiations for the Democrats, as well as Cornyn, Sinema and Tillis.
“The principles they announced today show the value of dialogue and cooperation,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in a statement. “I continue to hope that their discussions will produce a bipartisan product that makes significant progress on key issues like mental health and school safety, upholds the Second Amendment, wins broad support in the Senate, and makes a difference for our country.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would introduce a bill “as soon as possible.”
“After an unrelenting wave of gun-related suicides and homicides, including mass shootings, the Senate is ready to act with common sense reforms to protect Americans where they live, shop and learn,” said the New York Democrat. . “We must act quickly to move this legislation forward because if it can save even one life, it’s worth the effort.”
Gun control activists responded mostly positively to the deal on Sunday.
March for Our Lives, the student-led movement focused on gun violence prevention, said it welcomes the proposed reforms.
“In a less broken society, we could require background checks every time someone wants to buy a gun, and we would ban assault rifles altogether,” said David Hogg, one of the group’s co-founders and a survivor of the city shooting. Parkland school in 2018, in a statement. “But if even one life is saved or an attempted mass shooting is prevented because of these regulations, we think it’s worth fighting for.”
“We are grateful to the bipartisan group of senators who worked on this compromise,” he added.
And former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, who has become one of the country’s leading gun control advocates since a 2011 shooting that left six dead and nearly killed her, called the reforms “a step forward that saves lives.” ”. (Giffords is married to Kelly, one of the Democratic senators behind the deal.)
“As a congressman, I have always worked across party lines to get things done for my constituents. This deal represents that it is still possible to cut through politics and deliver for the American people,” he said in a series of tweets
“And while this agreement is not perfect, there are many details to be worked out and more needs to be done. If carefully drafted and signed into law, this framework would be a life-saving step forward.”
Still, the deal would be significant given how divided lawmakers have been on the issue of guns, even after a series of devastating mass shootings, including one that killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. .
A source with knowledge of the discussions said negotiators were hoping to get 10 Republican senators to sign the deal before it was announced, to show they can overcome the 60-vote filibuster threshold. Currently, the Senate is evenly divided between the Democratic and Republican conferences with 50 seats each.
The Senate’s top four negotiators — Murphy, Sinema, Cornyn and Tillis — were in talks all weekend to work out final details and have also been in talks with a larger bipartisan group of negotiators.
The House voted 223-204 last week to pass a sweeping package of gun control legislation called the Protect Our Children Act. However, the measure is not expected to pass the Senate, amid widespread GOP opposition to stricter gun control.
The legislation’s passage in the House came hours after an emotional hearing on gun violence in which families of victims called for more action.
Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland on Sunday praised Senate negotiators ahead of the announcement for their work on the legislation, but stopped short of voicing support for the next package.
“Well, we would certainly vote for it and work on it,” he said on “State of the Union” when asked if he would vote for the bill, adding, “It’s moving in the right direction. We’re glad the Senate has finally caught on to this.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive Democrat from New York, said later on the same show that she would be willing to support the legislation “if we take a real baby step, not kind of a distraction, I think, from the solution. .” She stressed that including a provision for background checks is critical.
“You know, I think if we can get background checks done, my hope, my hope is that it’s a yes” to the legislation, Ocasio-Cortez said.
This story has been updated with news of the announced deal.