Senate members reach a bipartisan agreement on the gun violence bill

Wednesday, June 22, 2022
author picture Alice Dupont
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Chris Murphy‚ a Democrat‚ Votes Against Mass Shooting Background Checks

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy recently made headlines for his stance on gun violence‚ especially in light of the recent massacre in Newtown. More than twenty children and six teachers died in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School‚ which was held in his home state. Since the tragedy‚ there have been no major changes in gun legislation in Congress. While there has been some bipartisan progress‚ the National Rifle Association has fought to keep gun control laws from becoming law. As a result‚ the NRA is strongly opposing the Senate bill‚ which would increase the burden on law-abiding gun owners.

WASHINGTON‚ (AP) -- Senate bargainers came to an agreement on Tuesday. A bipartisan gun violence bill this could allow Congress to get final passage in weeks on a landmark‚ incremental package. It would serve as Congress' answer to mass shootings the nation was shaken by the earthquakes in Texas and New York. The 80-page bill was released by lawmakers nine days following the agreement to a plan framework it is now 29 years since Congress passed major firearms restrictions. The initial hurdle was cleared by 64 to 34‚ and 14 Republicans voted yes along with all 48 Democrats. This strongly supported the prediction of Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)‚ that approval would be given later in this week. The Democratic-led House may soon pass the bill. Although Republicans opposed tougher restrictions than Democrats wanted‚ the agreement marks an election-year breakthrough on an issue which pits Republicans staunch gun-owners and rural voters against Democrats who support firearms curbs‚ This makes it one the most explosive culture war battlegrounds in politics‚ and an important vote for lawmakers‚ especially Republicans who may alienate Second Amendment stalwarts. This legislation will make background checks more difficult for young gun buyers. It would also require sellers to perform background checks. Gun traffickers could be subject to harsher penalties. The legislation would also allow states to send money to communities in order to increase school safety or mental health programs. According to Aides‚ the cost of the measure was estimated at $15 billion. Sen. Chris Murphy‚ Connecticut's lead Democratic bargainer‚ stated that the bill would be paid in full. The bill will prohibit couples who are convicted of domestic abuse and they have not been married to the victims from owning firearms. This would resolve one last hurdle that prevented the agreement. Guns are currently prohibited for victims of domestic violence who have been married‚ lived with‚ or had children together. Guns are not allowed to be purchased by anyone who is in a relationship or has been for some time with the victim. If the offender has not been convicted of a serious offense‚ their right to possess a firearm could be restored within five years. Another late dispute: The bill would give $750 million to 19 states and District of Columbia with red flag laws‚ which make it simpler to take guns from persons adjudged to be dangerous and other states that offer violence prevention programs. The funds will be paid to the red flag states that have the legal process for gun owners to challenge the removal of firearms. The momentum in Congress to pass gun legislation has had a track record of rapidly waning after mass shootings. This weekend‚ lawmakers will begin a two week July Fourth recess. There are far more powerful proposals than President Joe Biden backs. Democrats have tried unsuccessfully to push for this legislation for many years but were stopped by the GOP. They include prohibiting assault weapons‚ raising the age limit for purchasing them and banning high-capacity magazines. Background checks are also required for almost all gun sales. Nevertheless‚ after the deaths of 10 Black customers in Buffalo‚ New York and 20 children and teachers in Uvalde Texas last month‚ Democrats and Republicans decided to take measured steps instead of reacting in gridlock to these horrors. Murphy stated that after Uvalde and Buffalo‚ Murphy saw fear in the faces of both the parents and children. This was something Murphy had never experienced before. Murphy said that his fellow voters also experienced anxiety‚ not only for their safety‚ but also fear over the government's ability to act in this time and make something of significance. Murphy stated that this bill would help save thousands of people's lives. Murphy's House district in Connecticut included Newtown before he entered the Senate. In 2012‚ Sandy Hook Elementary School was hit by a mass shooting that killed 20 students and six teachers. John Cornyn‚ a top GOP negotiator‚ said about the pact: Some believe it goes too far and others feel it doesn’t go far enough. And I get it. This is the nature of compromise. He said‚ "I believe the people telling us to act are also sending us a clear signal‚ that we must do all we can to protect our communities and children." This legislation is a step in the right direction‚ I am confident. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Republican from Kentucky) supported it. He called it a package of common sense steps that will make such horrifying events less likely and fully protect the Second Amendment rights for law-abiding citizens. Opposition was voiced by the National Rifle Association (NRA)‚ which for decades has been preventing gun control legislation from being passed. The legislation is inadequate at all levels. The gun lobby group stated that it does not address violent crime and opens the doors to burdensome restrictions on Second Amendment rights for law-abiding gun owners. The legislation was likely to be opposed by the majority of Republicans‚ especially the House. Delegates booed Cornyn as he presented the plan at the Republican Convention in Houston‚ underscoring the opposition GOP legislators would face from most hard-right voters. Another sign of conservatism was Sen. Josh Hawley‚ Missouri's potential 2020 Republican presidential candidate. He tweeted that the bill ignored the national crime wave and instead aimed at fundamental rights for law-abiding citizens. Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.)‚ a potential White House candidate‚ stated that it would limit the rights of law-abiding Americans‚ and give too much power to politicians and other officials. To reach the threshold of 60 votes that major bills require in the 50-50 Senate‚ the measure must have at least 10 GOP votes. Cornyn stated to reporters that he expects at least 10 GOP votes in favor of the measure. It is not clear if passage will mark the start of gradual but steady action to reduce gun violence or just the end of the current high water mark. A numbing procession of mass killings at various sites‚ including schools and houses of worship and bars on the Las Vegas Strip‚ has been going on until Buffalo and Uvalde. Washington is still stuck in a deadlock. Murphy stated that Congress has done nothing for thirty years. We have the chance this week to end the 30-year silence by passing a bill which will change our laws and save lives. This bill will require federal background checks to be completed for all gun buyers between 18 and 20 years old. It would also include a review of the juvenile records. This could increase background check time by seven days beyond the three-day current limit. Both the Buffalo shooting suspects and Uvalde shooter were 18-years old. This profile matches that of many mass shooters. Hundreds of millions would be spent to build community mental health centers and telemedicine visits to mental specialists. It also helps train first responders who can help people suffering from mental illness. For school mental health‚ more than $2 billion will be spent to train and hire staff. This includes $300 million for improving school safety. Congress banned assault-type guns in 1993‚ a ban which expired 10 years later. This was the last major legislation to address gun violence. ___ This report was contributed by Kevin Freking‚ an Associated Press journalist.