Senate negotiators said Tuesday they reached a bipartisan agreement on gun ownership reforms and funding for mental health and school safety initiatives, bringing Congress one step closer to passing the most momentous federal gun violence law in decades.
Sen Chris Murphy told reporters that while lawmakers were still finalizing the text of the bill itself, the compromise’s key problems had been ironed out.
“We have an agreement,” Mr Murphy said Tuesday, noting that senators are “still dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s.”
John Cornyn, the senior Texas senator and leading Republican negotiator on the issue, showed his support in a Senate speech in which he stated that the release of the actual text of the legislation would come “at any moment.”
If so, the Senate could likely vote on the final passage of the bill later this week. Although the compromise text has not yet been released, the working framework released earlier this month won support not only from the 10 Republicans involved in the talks, but also from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The framework called for expanded background checks on gun buyers under the age of 21, as well as closing the so-called “boyfriend gap” that allowed some domestic violence convicts to continue buying firearms. It is also establishing a grants program to encourage the passage of “red flag laws” in states that allow courts to place temporary restrictions on an individual’s gun ownership if law enforcement or their own family proves they are a danger to themselves or represent others.
The bill would also reportedly provide some funding for expanding access to mental health care in the US, although it is not yet clear what form this will take. This comes in response to nationwide support for federal action to combat gun violence and school shootings, particularly after two back-to-back massacres committed by suspects under the age of 21 with AR-15-style rifles at a supermarket in New York and an elementary school in Texas.
“Will this law do all we need to end the gun violence epidemic in our country? no But it’s real, meaningful progress. And it breaks a 30-year backlog and shows that Democrats and Republicans can work together in a way that really saves lives,” Murphy said earlier this month.
“Drafting this law and getting it passed by both chambers will not be easy. We still have a long way to go before this reaches the President’s desk. But with your help and activism, we can do it. This time, failure cannot be an option,” he added at the time.