A decades-long partisan stall on gun control reform may be nearing a close, as a bipartisan group of 20 senators have reached an agreement on a new string of gun safety measures that, at least theoretically, could survive a divided and mercurial Senate vote. The proposals fall far short of the sweeping reforms hoped for by Democrats but would represents a step forward few believed was possible. About three weeks after the mass shooting in Uvalde that claimed the lives of 19 children and two teachers, and on the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting that left 49 dead, a deal was announced.
Among the proposed laws are enhanced background checks for prospective gun buyers under 21. It would also close the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” meaning dating partners convicted of domestic abuse would not be able to purchase guns.
Under the proposal, states will also receive funds to enact “red flag laws,” allowing officials to confiscate guns from anyone deemed to be a threat to themselves or others. Money is also allocated to bolster mental health resources and safety protocols at schools. The proposals would also enact a federal law against gun trafficking and straw purchasing, which would help stem the tide of illegal guns across state lines.
The Biden Administration had hoped and campaigned for a more robust package of laws, including the long-sought after ban on assault weapons and universal background checks. Also missing from the bipartisan proposal are things like a ban on sales of semiautomatic firearms to people under 21 and federal red flag laws. The House passed a far more sweeping set of gun laws last week, though its odds of passing the House were always virtually zero.
But this does mark the first time in 30 years that a set of proposals has found enough Republican support to overcome any potential filibuster. Connecticut Senator Christopher S. Murphy, a Democrat, and Texas Senator John Cornyn, a Republican, announced the proposal in a joint statement that hailed the measure as progress. “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,” they wrote. “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.”
On Twitter, Murphy noted that despite the bipartisan agreement, the deal’s path to law was not yet certain. “Drafting this law and passing it through both chambers will not be easy,” he wrote. “We have a long way before this gets to the President’s desk. But with your help and activism, we can get this done. This time, failure cannot be an option.”
House Minority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell, a longtime critic of gun law reform, seemed to underscore Murphy’s words by praising the cooperative spirit of the package while notably declining to commit to giving the package his support. “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.”
“Will this bill do everything we need to end our nation’s gun violence epidemic? No,” wrote Murphy. “But it’s real, meaningful progress. And it breaks a 30 year long jam, demonstrating that Democrats and Republicans can work together in a way that truly saves lives.”