Bipartisan senators reach agreement on gun safety measures

After weeks of negotiations, a bipartisan group of senators announced the text of their anti-gun violence compromise on Tuesday evening — a mix of support for mental health and school safety services and changes to some gun laws, including strengthening the ban on domestic abusers owning firearms and offering incentives to expand the federal background check system for potential buyers under 21.

The legislation, which the Senate was due to pass for a first procedural vote on Tuesday evening, could quickly pass the upper house, according to leaders of both parties.

President Joe Biden, who previously called for tougher gun control legislation — including an outright ban on assault weapons that Republicans rejected — said earlier Tuesday he would wait to comment on the bill until it is introduced.

The senators were keen to preserve the momentum of their agreement, which was initially announced in broad strokes on June 12 and sparked by the mass shooting at the school in Uvalde, Texas, last month.

Congress hasn’t enacted significant gun legislation in some 30 years, and conservative lawmakers have long shied away from working on the issue, arguing that gun control is ineffective and often unconstitutional. But the Uvalde killings — after many other such killings in recent months and years — sparked another round of talks between Democrats and Republicans in the equally divided chamber.

The end result, as negotiated by Democrat Chris Murphy and Republican John Cornyn of Connecticut and Texas, along with Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, “isn’t going to please everyone. “, Cornyn said in a floor speech Tuesday before the text of the bill was released.

“Some think it goes too far. Others think it doesn’t go far enough. And I get it,” he said. “But the nature of compromise and the nature of actually wanting to get a result requires everyone to try to find common ground where we can.”

Murphy — perhaps the most outspoken supporter of gun control in the Senate, representing the site of the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting — said in his own remarks after Cornyn that he believed that they had made significant progress.

It was “not window dressing,” Murphy said.

“This bill will save lives,” he continued. “This bill will save thousands of lives. It will be something every member of the Senate who votes for it can be proud of.”

Tuesday night’s procedural vote is just the first step in a multi-day process to pass the bill. The exact timing of the final vote is not yet known, but could be towards the end of the week – with everyone involved hoping to approve the legislation before the two-week Fourth of July holiday.

The first vote is to start debating legislation. Due to some maneuvering by Democratic leaders, the debate only requires a simple majority. Still, it could turn out to be an indicator of initial support for the legislation. At the same time, the bill that has just been introduced continues to circulate and many senators have not yet had time to read it.

It’s also unclear when the full cost of the package will be released.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said they support the bill, indicating it may well come close to a Senate supermajority , barring new developments. Ten Republicans initially signed on to the June 12 framework, though Tuesday’s draft was only announced by the four key negotiators.

“I support the text of the bill that Senator Cornyn and our colleagues have produced,” McConnell said in a statement. “For years, the far left has falsely claimed that Congress could only solve the terrible problem of mass murder by trampling on the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans. This bill proves that wrong. “

In a separate statement on Tuesday, Schumer celebrated the group’s work and said he would “put this vital legislation on the floor of the Senate for a vote, with a first procedural vote starting tonight and after that we will move on.” end as soon as possible.”

The National Rifle Association, however, expressed opposition to the “overbroad” bill which “fails on every level.”

“This legislation can be misused to restrict legal gun purchases, violate the rights of law-abiding Americans, and use federal dollars to fund gun control measures enacted by state politicians and locals,” the band said. “This bill gives too much leeway to government officials.”

The details

The main provisions of the legislation focus on the so-called “boyfriend loophole” in a previous federal ban on convicted domestic abusers with firearms and the expansion of federal background checks for 18 to 21 year olds who want to buy a gun.

In their speeches on Tuesday — and perhaps reflecting the triangulated politics of the deal they struck together — Cornyn and Murphy sometimes described these new measures and other elements of their bill in different ways.

As ABC News previously reported, senators were stuck during the drafting process on, among other things, two things: how to craft language to close the “boyfriend loophole” and how to implement funds to encourage anti-violence programs.

In his remarks on the floor Tuesday, Cornyn explained how he thinks lawmakers have managed to address these issues.

On anti-violence programs: According to Cornyn, funds intended to incentivize states to implement so-called “red flag” laws to remove guns from people deemed a danger to themselves or others could be applied to any number of anti-violence programs.

It will be up to the states to decide what type of program they wish to use the funds to implement, whether it is a “red flag” law, mental health courts, veterans courts, outpatient treatment, etc., Cornyn said. To qualify for federal funds, each of these programs will need to have “strong due process protections,” he said.

“We are not going to introduce a national ‘red flag’ law but we are making law enforcement related grants available to crisis intervention programs whether you have adopted a ‘red flag’ program or no, maybe you chose something different. This grant program will provide each state with funding that implements programs that they have adopted themselves,” Cornyn said.

On the loophole, Cornyn said senators agreed to expand the definition of a boyfriend so that other types of intimate partners convicted of domestic violence are not allowed to own a gun.

He said the bill includes language that allows those convicted of the non-spousal offense of domestic violence to have their gun ownership rights restored after five years if they have a clean criminal record.

“It’s an incentive, I think, for people who have made a mistake, committed domestic violence and received a misdemeanor conviction, to put their act right and not repeat it,” he said.

He also gave details on how the additional parts of the bill would be implemented.

With expanded federal background checks for 18-21 year olds, states would control what information they are willing to share with the system. But Cornyn said the legislation “incentivizes” states to download minors’ records.

The legislation also includes funds to “bolster” school safety and expand the country’s mental health apparatus.

Murphy followed Cornyn to the Senate to present the bill from his perspective and he expressed confidence that the finish line was near, saying: “I believe that this week we will pass legislation that will become the “The most important piece of anti-gun violence legislation Congress will have passed in 30 years. It’s a breakthrough. And, more importantly, it’s a bipartisan breakthrough.”

“It’s been a tough road to get to this compromise, but nothing worthwhile comes easy. And no one in a compromise gets everything they want. This bill will be too little for many. It will be too much for others. But it’s not a box-checking exercise,” he said.

While Cornyn suggested funding for “red flag” laws could also be applied to a number of anti-violence programs, Murphy pointed out that those anti-violence program options are “narrow.”

“As Senator Cornyn said, we will also make those dollars eligible for a narrow range of other legal responses to violence, which was very important to our fellow Republicans,” Murphy said. Yet this provision could allow states to opt out of “red flag” laws entirely, opting instead for other anti-violence measures.

Murphy also said allowing those who are domestic abusers to reclaim their right to purchase a gun will only apply to first-time offenders and have other requirements.

“This bill will ensure that no domestic abuser can buy or own a gun. We are closing the ‘boyfriend loophole,'” he said. But he acknowledged: “To be consistent with the state’s crime restoration rights, this legislation will allow individuals to regain their rights after a period of time, but only for first-time offenders and only if there is no there are no violent crimes in the passing of time.”

Murphy did not mention, as Cornyn did, that states will have the ability to choose the amount of juvenile records information shared with the national background check system for 18- to 21-year-olds seeking to buy a gun.

“What we do know is that the profile of the modern mass shooter is often between 18 and 21,” he said. “So this bill has improved background checks … including a call to the local police department, a process that can take up to three days, up to 10 days if there are particular signs of concern. that investigators need to follow up on. This enhanced background check will help ensure that young buyers in crisis undergo another check, perhaps a short period of time between their decision to purchase a lethal weapon to commit a crime and their ability to obtain this weapon.

Despite the capitulations of Democrats already beginning to become clear on this bill, Murphy presented it as a major step.

“This week, we have the opportunity to break this 30-year period of silence with a bill that changes our laws in a way that will save thousands of lives. It’s a compromise. It’s a bipartisan compromise It’s a way forward for how Republicans and Democrats can work together to address some of the most vexing and difficult challenges facing this country,” he said.

ABC News’ Ben Gittleson contributed to this report.

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