Top GOP bargainer Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said of the pact, “Some think it goes too far, others think it doesn’t go far enough. And I get it. It’s the nature of compromise.”
But he added, “I believe that the same people who are telling us to do something are sending us a clear message, to do what we can to keep our children and communities safe. I’m confident this legislation moves us in a positive direction.”
Momentum in Congress for gun legislation has a history of waning quickly after mass shootings, and lawmakers are scheduled to begin a two-week July 4th recess at the end of this week.
In a positive sign about its fate, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., voiced his support, calling it “a commonsense package of popular steps that will help make these horrifying incidents less likely while fully upholding the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”
The National Rifle Association, which has spent decades derailing gun control legislation, said it opposed the measure. “It falls short at every level. It does little to truly address violent crime while opening the door to unnecessary burdens on the exercise of Second Amendment freedom by law-abiding gun owners,” the gun lobby group said.
It seemed likely a majority of Republicans — especially in the House — would oppose the legislation.
Underscoring the backlash GOP lawmakers supporting the pact would face from the most conservative voters, delegates booed Cornyn at his state’s Republican convention in Houston Saturday as he described the measure.
In another measure of conservative sentiment, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate, tweeted that the bill “ignores the national crime wave & chips away instead at the fundamental rights of law abiding citizens.” Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, another possible White House hopeful, said it would “restrict the freedoms of law-abiding Americans and put too much power in the hands of politicians and political officials.”
The measure will need at least 10 GOP votes to reach the 60-vote threshold major bills often need in the 50-50 Senate. Ten Republican senators had joined with 10 Democrats in backing the framework, and Cornyn told reporters that “I think there will be at least” 10 GOP votes for the measure.
What’s uncertain is whether the agreement and its passage would mark the beginning of slow but gradual congressional action to curb gun violence, or the high water mark on the issue. Until Buffalo and Uvalde, a numbing parade of mass slayings — at sites including elementary and high schools, houses of worship, military facilities, bars and the Las Vegas Strip — have yielded only stalemate in Washington.
“Thirty years, murder after murder, suicide after suicide, mass shooting after mass shooting, Congress did nothing,” Murphy said. “This week we have a chance to break this 30-year period of silence with a bill that changes our laws in a way that will save thousands of lives.”
For the first time, the bill would require that federal background checks for gun buyers age 18 to 20 include examination of the purchaser’s juvenile record. That added information gathering could add up to seven more days to the current three-day limit on background checks.
The suspects in the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings were both 18 years old, a profile that matches many mass shooters in recent years.
There would be hundreds of millions of dollars to expand community behavioral health centers, telemedicine visits for mental specialists and train first responders to handle people with mental health issues. More than $2 billion would be provided to hire and train staff for school mental health services, including $300 million to improve school safety.
Congress’ prohibited assault-type firearms in 1993 in a ban that expired after a decade, lawmakers’ last sweeping legislation addressing gun violence.
The Democratic-run House would be expected to vote on the measure shortly after it receives Senate approval.
Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed t tis report.
Senators reach bipartisan compromise on gun violence bill