What’s Good (and What’s Not) About the Senate Gun Policy Deal
When it comes to legislation to address gun violence, the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives has been busy. Last year, the House approved two bills, both related to expanding background checks on gun purchases, and last week House Democrats went further, by adopting both the Protecting Our Kids Act package and a red flag measure called the Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act.
But as is often the case, much of the political world shrugged in response, knowing that House-backed legislation cannot overcome Republican filibusters in the Senate. Instead, much of the focus has been on bipartisan negotiations in the upper house, which yesterday afternoon appeared to have been successful. BNC News reported:
Top senators announced a framework agreement on new gun legislation on Sunday, marking a breakthrough in a package of measures to tackle gun violence, including “red flag” laws and enhanced background checks gun buyers…Unlike the series of Democrat-drafted gun bills that passed the House last week, the Senate deal has a better chance of becoming law because it benefits support from key Republicans, who wield an effective veto over gun legislation in the Senate due to the 60-vote filibuster rule.
I heard from Democratic sources on Capitol Hill yesterday, and they all said much the same thing: When evaluating this compromise deal, they wanted more, but expected less.
According a summary published by Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, one of the main negotiators, this new agreement would, among other things:
- provide resources to states to create and implement “red flag” laws,
- making new investments in mental health services and school safety measures,
- closing the “boyfriend loophole”, preventing those convicted of domestic violence from buying guns,
- bring new clarity to laws regarding licensed arms dealers, to strengthen the existing background check system,
- expanding the background check system for gun buyers under 21 to include a review of juvenile and mental health records, and
- create new criminal penalties for the purchase of gun straw.
The good news for proponents of reform is that the framework exists; It’s better than nothing; it was received quickly White House support; and he seems to have enough support to succeed.
Indeed, 10 Republican senators – John Cornyn of Texas, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania — signed their names to yesterday’s press release on the compromise package, which is the minimum necessary to remove an obstruction.
(Note that four senators from this group are retiring, and five won’t face voters again until 2026. The exception is Romney, who the right is upset with anyway for challenging Donald Trump.)
The bad news is that yesterday’s announcement was the first of several steps, and final passage is by no means assured.
It’s important to note, for example, that yesterday’s announcement unveiled a framework — which, in effect, is a written outline of ideas. Now, policymakers will have to get to work drafting an actual piece of legislation, which provides new opportunities for possible blackouts.
Plus, the lobbying campaign against the unwritten bill hasn’t even begun yet, and it’s hard to say for sure whether the GOP senators who endorsed the plan will stick with it, if I may. expression, to their guns as many on the right call for the defeat of the legislation.
As for the left, there are all sorts of popular ideas supported by reformers – universal background checks, reinstating the ban on assault weapons, banning high-capacity magazines, and so on. — which were never seriously considered in the Senate talks due to Republican opposition.
But since this morning Something exists, it includes reasonable provisions and it has a decent chance of becoming law. Watch this place.