A bipartisan group of senators has announced Sunday that they had reached agreement for a framework of gun safety measures that would include red flag laws, background checks and funds to secure schools — but wouldn’t raise the age to buy certain rifles to 21.
“Today, we are announcing a commonsense, bipartisan proposal to protect America’s children, keep our schools safe, and reduce the threat of violence across our country. 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,” the group of 20 senators said in a statement.
The negotiations were led by Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and Republicans John Cornyn of Texas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, in response to the outrage over the horrific mass shootings last month in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, that claimed the lives of 31 people.
The White House praised the agreement and thanked the senators for “their tireless work to produce this proposal.”
“Obviously, it does not do everything that I think is needed, but it reflects important steps in the right direction, and would be the most significant gun safety legislation to pass Congress in decades,” President Biden said in a statement.
“With bipartisan support, there are no excuses for delay, and no reason why it should not quickly move through the Senate and the House. Each day that passes, more children are killed in this country: the sooner it comes to my desk, the sooner I can sign it, and the sooner we can use these measures to save lives,” the statement said.
The bipartisan group includes 10 GOP senators — a number that would allow the deal to overcome the 60-vote threshold in the 50-50 divided chamber required to pass legislation.
The framework of the agreement encourages states to enact red-flag laws, to expand mental health services in all 50 states, as well as allow searches of juvenile records during background checks for those under 21 and increase funds for school security and mental health programs.
But absent from the agreement are a number of proposals sought by Biden and gun control advocates — including an assault weapons ban and an increase in the age to purchase semi-automatic rifles to 21 from 18.
The gunmen who killed 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo and 21 — including 19 children and two teachers — at an elementary school in Texas both used AR-15-style military assault rifles.
Both were also 18 when they purchased the weapons.
“Our plan increases needed mental health resources, improves school safety and support for students, and helps ensure dangerous criminals and those who are adjudicated as mentally ill can’t purchase weapons,” the senators said. “Most importantly, our plan saves lives while also protecting the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans. We look forward to earning broad, bipartisan support and passing our commonsense proposal into law.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lauded the senators for the breakthrough. Schumer, of New York, said he would put the measure on the floor for a vote as soon as the text is finalized.
“After an unrelenting wave of gun-related suicides and homicides, including mass shootings, the Senate is poised to act on commonsense reforms to protect Americans where they live, where they shop, and where they learn. We must move swiftly to advance this legislation because if a single life can be saved it is worth the effort,” Schumer said.
McConnell of Kentucky said he supports the negotiations, adding that he is “glad” Cornyn and Murphy continue “to make headway in their discussions.”
“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 the country,” he said in a statement.
The House, mostly on a party-line vote of 233-204, passed a gun control bill last week but it’s expected to die in the Senate.
The House bill raises the age to purchase a semi-automatic rifle to 21 and prohibits the sale of ammunition magazines with a capacity of more than 15 rounds.