A bipartisan group of senators hoped to unveil a gun control deal on Friday, in the wake of a series of mass shootings, including those of Uvalde, TexasAnd Buffalo, New York. They don’t have one yet, but negotiators are still cautiously optimistic about getting a deal in the coming days.
“It will be a miracle if we get a framework agreement no matter a final bill,” Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) told reporters Thursday. “But miracles do happen sometimes!”
Initially, lawmakers were hoping to reach an agreement by the end of this week, but as with many things in Congress, that deadline has slipped. Despite this delay, those leading the talks – including Murphy and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) – remained optimistic about a possible deal.
“This is a city where it is fashionable to be pessimistic, so for my colleagues to be optimistic suggests that there is indeed cause for optimism,” Senator Todd Young (R-IN), the former head of the country, told Vox. Republican Committee for the Senatorial Campaign.
Any bipartisan deal, even an incremental one, would be given significantly how long the gun control traffic jam has been. While mass shootings have increased in the United States In recent years, Congress has not been able to find any meaningful compromises on the issue for more than a decade. A deal would show the public that Congress can actually make progress on gun control, and more importantly, any compromise could open the door to more ambitious policies across the board.
“Success often breeds success,” Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) told Vox. “It’s been a long time since we’ve done anything meaningful about weapons, a long time, so if we can do something solid, I think it could create conditions like ‘Hmm, Congress can act on weapons.’”
What’s on the table
There are four main areas that talks have focused on so far, according to a congressional aide. As Cornyn has repeatedly explained, any policy that emerges is probably of an “incremental” nature.even if it would still be the greatest progress that legislators have made on weapons in recent years.
Below are the four issues that lawmakers are currently debating:
1. Read red flag: A major component of any deal is likely to be grants that incentivize states to pass red flag laws or improve their implementation, an effort that builds on past negotiations between The senses Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Currently, 19 states and Washington, DCalready have red flag laws, also known as extreme hazard protection orders, which allow law enforcement to prevent an individual from owning firearms if they pose a risk to themselves or others.
Whatever bill passed by the Senate would be aimed at encouraging more states to pass these laws and help states with existing ones enforce them more effectively. As was evident in a recent mass shooting in Buffalo, the effectiveness of a red flag law is heavily dependent on implementationas well as law enforcement and public awareness of how to use them correctly.
2. Background checks improvements: At this point, legislation that would impose universal background checks, just like the bill presented of Sens. Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey in 2012 are not in contention due to Republican opposition. Instead, lawmakers are looking to see if more information may be required as part of background checks for young people between the ages of 18 and 21.
For example, in the case of an 18-year-old attempting to purchase a handgun, senators are considering whether additional information from their minor background, which is currently omitted, could be included as part of a background check.
3. Mental health resources: There is also talk of increasing funding for mental health programs, which could include measures to help states strengthen their efforts. A previously introduced bipartisan bill by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) could be a model: it would fund behavioral health clinics that help provide mental health and addiction services.
4. School safety: And finally, there are discussions on policies to improve the safety and security of schools, although lawmakers have refused to share further details on what this might include. previously, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced legislation that would allow schools to use grant funds for campus design and stronger security measures.
Because it still matters even if it is incremental
Anything passed by the Senate is likely to be far less ambitious than Democrats hoped and what experts believe is needed to more significantly curb gun violence.
Earlier this week, the Chamber approved a large package of proposals including a ban on high-capacity magazines, a bill to raise the age limit for the purchase of semi-automatic weapons from 18 to 21, and legislation that would require safer storage of weapons in homes with minors. Policies like these could reduce gun violence by making it more difficult to fire multiple bullets at once and making it more difficult for young people to obtain weapons.
House bills are widely expected to be blocked in the Senate, where any deal is poised to be somewhat limited.
However, the negotiators say it is important to do something to begin addressing public demands for greater gun control and show that it is possible for Congress to breach the issue. “We can help build muscle that we will use again by starting now,” Blumenthal told Vox.
Murphy saidfurthermore, that this could be an opportunity to demonstrate to Republican lawmakers that any backlash they might face to support gun control would actually be far less than what many fear. Due to how outspoken a minority of Republican voters have been on the issue, many GOP lawmakers have been reluctant to take any action on arms control due to concerns over the electoral backlash and the potential primary challenges they might face.
At the moment, there is no concrete agreement yet, but lawmakers were highly hoping to get into Thursday weekend. Whatever emerges from these talks, they hope, will be a step forward in the wake of recent devastating tragedies.
“Everyone wants this to be done during this period of work,” Murphy told reporters, noting that the senators aimed to finalize a deal before leaving for their next hiatus.