Congress announces deal on gun reform, mental health funding and school safety

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Senate members involved in bipartisan talks on the issue of gun law reform in response to a recent spate of mass shootings announced they had reached an agreement on Sunday.

News of the arrangements was first reported by The Washington Post Sunday morning, and was confirmed on Twitter by chief Democratic negotiator Chris Murphy shortly before noon ET.

The legislation will include an expansion of background checks for people under 21 to include a search of juvenile justice records, as well as a federal grant program that will encourage states to pass laws on the red flags, which allow family members or law enforcement to go to court. to temporarily prevent certain people from possessing firearms. It also prohibits those convicted of domestic violence from owning a firearm.

Other provisions of the agreement include ‘billions’ of funding for mental health treatment programs and efforts to make schools safer across the country, according to the senator, as well as terms aimed at tackling against firearms trafficking.

Passing any legislation in the Senate currently 50-50 is an uphill battle, and gun laws are an issue on which there has been little compromise from Republicans in the past. But Mr Murphy’s Twitter feed said on Sunday the negotiating team had secured pledges from 10 Republicans to vote for the bill, support needed to overcome a filibuster.

“Will this bill do all we need to end the epidemic of gun violence in our country? No. But it is real and significant progress. And it breaks a 30-year traffic jam, demonstrating that Democrats and Republicans can work together in a way that truly saves lives,” Murphy said.

“Drafting this law and getting it through both chambers will not be easy. We have a long way to go before that gets to the president’s office. But with your help and your activism, we can make it happen. This time, failure cannot be an option,” added the Democrat from Connecticut, site of the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012.

John Cornyn, the senior GOP senator from Texas and chief Republican negotiator in the talks, later confirmed both his support and that of nine other Republicans, including members such as Mitt Romney, Susan Collins and Bill Cassidy, in a joint statement from the negotiating group issued. through his office.

“Today we are announcing a common sense bipartisan proposal to protect America’s children, keep our schools safe and reduce the threat of violence in our country. Families are scared, and it is our duty to unite and to do something that will help restore their sense of safety in their communities,” the group said.

“Our plan increases needed mental health resources, improves school safety and support for students, and helps ensure that dangerous criminals and those deemed mentally ill cannot purchase weapons. Most importantly, our plan saves lives while protecting the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans. We look forward to gaining broad bipartisan support and getting our common sense proposal into law,” the senators added.

Mr. Cornyn is closely aligned with the GOP leadership in the Senate, so his support for the bill could signal that more Republican votes will join the final bill.

Some signs of support have come from the Senate’s top Republican himself, Mitch McConnell, who issued a statement praising the efforts of Messrs. Murphy and Cornyn without outright declaring that he would vote yes on the legislation.

The announced provisions of the law go further than media reports detailing the talks have indicated so far; until now, many expected that a potential deal (if one were to emerge) would focus on the state-level red flag law grant program without delving into additional restrictions on possession at all. of firearms.

However, this does not go as far as gun violence activists or the White House would like. The effort to ban possession of assault rifles by those under 21 was not included in the bill, nor were efforts to ban high-capacity magazines or expand vetting checks. track record to close the so-called “gun show loophole”, which refers to private (unlicensed) guns. ) gun sellers can skip background checks on their buyers.

Many also wanted assault-type weapons like the AR-15, derivatives of which were used in the recent Uvalde and Buffalo massacres, banned from civilian markets altogether. The high-powered semi-automatic rifles were described as causing absolute carnage, particularly during the Texas school shooting, aggravating injuries and increasing the number of casualties.

If it passes the Senate with 10 or more Republican votes, however, it will represent the most significant gun reform legislation to pass Congress (assuming it passes the House) in more than a year. decade.

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