Senate could pass 80-page gun package THIS WEEK after Republicans and Democrats agreed on compromise – but South Dakota Republican John Thune who brought up varmint hunting to defend assault weapons says he is a NO
- Senate bargainers reached the agreement Tuesday potentially teeing up final passage by week’s end
- Aides estimated the measure would cost around $15 billion, which Sen. Chris Murphy, the lead Democratic bargainer, said would be fully paid for
- The legislation lacks more potent proposals that President Biden supports and Democrats have pushed unsuccessfully for years, derailed by GOP opposition
- Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer said he intended to make sure it passes by the end of the week
- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also praised the compromise
- Senate Minority Whip John Thune said he was against it but predicted passage
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer said Wednesday he plans to make sure the Senate passes new gun safety legislation by the end of the week, which would mark the first significant congressional action on a gun measure in 30 years.
He spoke after the chamber voted to move to take up compromise legislation with enough votes to signal it could actually make it out of the Senate.
The Senate voted 64-34 to take up the bill Tuesday night after negotiators reached agreement on 80-page legislative language.
‘I am pleased Congress is on the path to taking meaningful action to address gun violence for the first time in nearly 30 years,’ Schumer said on the Senate floor Wednesday. ‘The bill is real progress. It will save lives, and it is my intention to make sure the Senate passes this bill before the end of the week.’
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the House will take up the legislation swiftly after it clears the Senate, with lawmakers in both houses eager to be home for the scheduled July 4 recess.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer said he intended to make sure gun safety legislation passes by the end of the week
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also praised the compromise, saying the Senate ‘took a big step toward an important bipartisan bill to prevent mass murders, make schools safer, and protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. He called the provisions ‘commonsense, popular solutions,’ after negotiators reached agreement on thorny ‘red flag’ and ‘boyfriend loophole’ provisions.
New details were emerging on the text.
The bill includes $300 million for school safety improvements, enhanced background checks for gun purchasers aged 18-21 with provisions that sunset in 2032, and $750 million to help states with red flag laws.
One Republican leader, Senate Minority Whip Sen. John Thune, has already come out against it.
He said it is likely to pass, having surpassed the 60-votes needed to overcome a GOP filibuster, but told CNN he would vote against it.
Thune had earlier blasted any assault weapons ban – and the final deal contains no such provisions, citing hunting in his home state of South Dakota.
‘In my state, they use them to shoot prairie dogs and, you know, other types of varmints. And so I think there are legitimate reasons why people would want to have them,’ he said.
The Senate reached an agreement on a bipartisan gun violence bill following horrific mass shootings in Texas and New York.
The legislation would toughen background checks for younger gun buyers, bolster background check requirements and beef up penalties for gun traffickers.
The bill would also prohibit romantic partners convicted of domestic abuse who are not married to their victims from getting firearms.
Convicted abusers who are married to, live with or had children with their victims are already barred from having guns.
Additionally, $750million would be provided to the 19 states that have ‘red flag’ laws making it easier to temporarily take firearms from people adjudged dangerous, and to other states with violence prevention programs.
States with ‘red flag’ laws that receive the funds would have to have legal processes for the gun owner to fight the firearm’s removal.
The bill would disburse money to states and communities to improve school safety and mental health initiatives.
Senate bargainers reached the agreement Tuesday potentially teeing up final passage by week’s end.
Though Republicans blocked tougher restrictions sought by Democrats, the accord marks an election-year breakthrough on an issue that pits the GOP’s staunch gun-owning and rural voters against Democrats’ urban-centered backers of firearms curbs.
Senator Chris Murphy speaking at a press conference on June 14. The democrat was a leader in passing the new gun control legislation
President Biden and Senator Chris Murphy discuss gun control at a meeting outside the Oval Office on June 7
Republican senator from Texas John Cornyn said he felt people were telling the US government something had to be done. I’m confident this legislation moves us in a positive direction,’ he said of the new legislation
Lawmakers released the 80-page bill nine days after agreeing to a framework for the plan and 29 years after Congress last enacted major firearms curbs.
It cleared an initial procedural hurdle by 64-34, with 14 Republicans joining all 48 Democrats and two allied independents in voting yes. That result strongly supported a prediction by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., of approval later this week. Passage by the Democratic-led House could follow quickly.
Aides estimated the measure would cost around $15 billion, which Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, the lead Democratic bargainer, said would be fully paid for.
Momentum in Congress for gun legislation has a history of waning quickly after mass shootings. Lawmakers are scheduled to begin a two-week July 4th recess by this weekend.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden visiting a memorial at the Robb Elementary School on May 29
Mourners embracing at a memorial outside outside the Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York, where a gunman murdered ten people in May
The legislation lacks far more potent proposals that President Joe Biden supports and Democrats have pushed unsuccessfully for years, derailed by GOP opposition.
These include banning assault-type weapons or raising the minimum age for buying them, prohibiting high-capacity magazines and requiring background checks for virtually all gun sales.
Yet after 10 Black shoppers were killed last month in Buffalo, New York, and 19 children and two teachers died days later in Uvalde, Texas, Democrats and some Republicans decided that this time, measured steps were preferable to Congress´ usual reaction to such horrors – gridlock.
Murphy said that after Buffalo and Uvalde, ‘I saw a level of fear on the faces of the parents and the children that I spoke to that I’ve never seen before.’ He said his colleagues also encountered anxiety among voters ‘not just for the safety of their children, but also a fear about the ability of government to rise to this moment and do something, and do something meaningful.’
This bill, Murphy said, would ‘save thousands of lives.’ Before entering the Senate, his House district included Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and six staff members perished in a 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Top GOP bargainer Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said of the pact, ‘Some think it goes too far, others think it doesn’t go far enough. And I get it. It’s the nature of compromise.’
But he added, ‘I believe that 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. I’m confident this legislation moves us in a positive direction.’
Payton Gendron appearing in court in May. He is accused of shooting up a Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York, killing ten people
Salvador Ramos, 18, murdered 19 schoolchildren and two teachers at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24
In a positive sign about its fate, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., voiced his support, calling it ‘a commonsense package of popular steps that will help make these horrifying incidents less likely while fully upholding the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.’
The National Rifle Association, which has spent decades derailing gun control legislation, expressed opposition. ‘It falls short at every level. It does little to truly address violent crime while opening the door to unnecessary burdens on the exercise of Second Amendment freedom by law-abiding gun owners,’ the gun lobby group said.
It seemed likely a majority of Republicans – especially in the House – would oppose the legislation.
Underscoring the backlash GOP lawmakers supporting the pact would face from the most hard-right voters, delegates booed Cornyn at his state´s Republican convention in Houston Saturday as he described the proposal.
In another measure of conservative sentiment, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate, tweeted that the bill ‘ignores the national crime wave & chips away instead at the fundamental rights of law abiding citizens.’ Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., a possible White House contender, said it would ‘restrict the freedoms of law-abiding Americans and put too much power in the hands of politicians and political officials.’
Armored police officers outside the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24
FBI investigators observing bullet holes in the window of the Tops supermarket where Payton Gendron murdered ten people in May
The measure will need at least 10 GOP votes to reach the 60-vote threshold major bills often need in the 50-50 Senate. Cornyn told reporters that he expected at least 10 GOP votes for the measure.
What´s uncertain is whether passage would mark the beginning of slow but gradual action to curb gun violence, or the high water mark on the issue.
Until Buffalo and Uvalde, a numbing parade of mass slayings – at sites including elementary and high schools, houses of worship, military facilities, bars and the Las Vegas Strip – have yielded only stalemate in Washington.
‘Thirty years, murder after murder, suicide after suicide, mass shooting after mass shooting, Congress did nothing,’ Murphy said.
‘This week we have a chance to break this 30-year period of silence with a bill that changes our laws in a way that will save thousands of lives.’
The bill would require that federal background checks for gun buyers age 18 to 20 include examination of the purchaser’s juvenile record. That could add up to seven more days to the current three-day limit on background checks.
The suspects in the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings were both 18 years old, a profile that matches many recent mass shooters.
There would be hundreds of millions of dollars to expand community behavioral health centers, telemedicine visits for mental specialists and train first responders to handle people with mental health issues. More than $2 billion would be provided to hire and train staff for school mental health services, including $300 million to improve school safety.
Congress´ prohibited assault-type firearms in 1993 in a ban that expired after a decade, lawmakers´ last sweeping legislation addressing gun violence.