(The Hill) – A bipartisan group of 20 senators led by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) on Sunday announced they have agreed to a “a commonsense proposal” to curb gun violence in response to the mass shooting in Ulvade, Texas, that left 21 people dead at Robb Elementary School.
In a major development, 10 Republicans signed onto the bipartisan framework, which means any legislation based on its principles has a good chance of mustering 60 votes and overcoming a filibuster on the Senate floor.
President Biden applauded the deal, which he said “would be the most significant gun safety legislation to pass Congress in decades,” and pledged to sign it.
The nine-point bipartisan plan would send federal resources to set up red flag laws to keep guns out of the hands of people deemed dangerous to the community, invest billions of dollars in children and family mental health services, fund school-based mental health services, fund new safety measures at schools and strengthen criminal background check requirements for gun buyers younger than 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,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement released shortly before noon Sunday.
“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,” they said.
The announcement caps two weeks of intense bipartisan negotiations that were led by Murphy, Cornyn, centrist Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).
It also comes just in time to meet a deadline that Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) set for the bipartisan negotiations.
Schumer threatened to bring gun-control legislation to the floor for a vote, whether or not it had bipartisan support, if Republicans did not agree to something quickly.
Schumer on Sunday praised the framework agreement as “a good first step to ending the persistent inaction to the gun violence epidemic that has plagued our country and terrorized our children for far too long,” he said.
The Democratic leader promised “to put this bill on the floor as soon as possible” once the text of the agreement is finalized.
Democrats hope they can bring a gun-violence package to the floor the week of June 20, after the chamber has finished work on a bill to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to help veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Sunday said he is pleased the bipartisan talks are making good progress.
“I am glad Sens. Cornyn and Murphy are continuing to make headway in their discussions. I appreciate their hard work on this important issue,” he said.
McConnell said the principles announced by the group “show the value of dialogue and cooperation.”
“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,” he said.
The legislative framework calls for including domestic violence restraining orders in the national instant criminal background check system, clarifying the definition of a federally licensed firearm dealer to include more people who sell a high volume of firearms, and creating new penalties for people who illegally purchase and traffic firearms.
The negotiations got a major boost before the Memorial Day recess when McConnell announced he had tapped Cornyn, a trusted ally with an A-plus rating from the National Rifle negotiation, to serve as the lead Republican negotiator.
McConnell told reporters last week that he wanted to see a bill pass, a major shift in tone after nearly three decades of stalemate on gun-control and gun-violence legislation.
“Step one is to try to get a deal. As I’ve said repeatedly, I hope that will be sooner rather than later,” he told reporters last week.
The group of senators who signed onto the proposal went well beyond the group that participated in the initial meetings in Murphy’s hideaway office in the basement of the Capitol.
The new Republicans signing onto the proposal are Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), the chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee and a member of the Senate GOP elected leadership, Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio), an adviser to the GOP leadership team, Sen. Richard Burr (N.C.) and Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah).
Blunt and Burr are retiring from Congress at the end of this year.
The new Democrats joining the group are Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.), Mark Kelly (Ariz.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), a senior member of the Senate Democratic leadership, and Angus King (Maine), an independent who caucuses with Democrats.
The others senators backing the proposal have been involved in the talks since a bipartisan group gathered in Murphy’s office immediately after the shooting in Uvalde in hopes of finding common ground on the divisive issue of gun control. They include: Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).
Leading advocates for addressing gun violence hailed the bipartisan statement of principles as a victory.
“This framework is a 30-year breakthrough in the making. We applaud this historic step forward for gun violence prevention — one born out of the recognition that this nation needs change and action to save American lives from preventable gun violence. This is a historic, new beginning that breaks the stranglehold of the gun industry,” said Kris Brown, the president of Brady, a gun-violence prevention advocacy group.
At the same time, Brown acknowledged that the framework does not significantly expand background checks, ban assault-style rifles or prohibit high-capacity magazines, which are all high priorities of gun-control groups.
She said the framework “is laudable, but it is not the end of our effort.”
Everytown for Gun Safety, another gun-violence prevention advocacy group, said that if enacted, the bipartisan framework would provide the basis for the first major federal gun safety law in nearly 26 years.
“We applaud this bipartisan coalition, led by Sens. Murphy and Cornyn, for leading this push to address our nation’s raging gun violence crisis, and we call on their colleagues to answer the call of history, and honor the victims and survivors of gun violence with long overdue action,” said John Feinblatt, the president of Everytown for Gun Safety.
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