Senate negotiators finalize gun safety bill
(The Hill) – Senate negotiators on Tuesday afternoon said they have finalized a bipartisan gun safety bill to take firearms away from dangerous people and provide billions of dollars in new mental health funding.
Senators and staff worked through the weekend and said Tuesday afternoon they’re at the finish line, giving Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) a good chance of scheduling a vote before the July 4 recess.
“We have an agreement and the text will be coming out very shortly,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told reporters as he headed to the floor to preside over the chamber.
Murphy, one of the lead negotiators on the package, said all the outstanding issues have been resolved and all that’s left to do is scrub the final language.
The legislative text is expected to be made public sometime Tuesday afternoon or evening.
“We’re working on getting the text out soon,” Murphy said. “We’ve reached agreement. We’re dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. There are always some drafting questions that come up at the last minute, but we were able to get agreement on the broad issues.”
Negotiators broke through a stalemate over language to close the so-called boyfriend loophole, which bogged down the talks last week.
Current law prohibits individuals from purchasing guns if they are convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence against someone they have been married to, lived with or had a child with. Closing the loophole would apply that law to other romantic or intimate partners.
Lawmakers squabbled last week about whether intimate or romantic partners deprived of their gun rights should be able to regain them at a later date, as well as whether to set up a restitution process for spouses, ex-spouses, co-habitants and partners who share children.
A source familiar said the lawmakers had agreed to restore gun rights for some intimate partners convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence charges if they met certain conditions.
Negotiators were racing to finalize the legislative text of a bipartisan framework they unveiled earlier this month, hoping to get the bill done as quickly as possible amid signs of growing Republican opposition.
Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the chief Republican negotiator on the bill, got booed at the Texas State Republican Convention Friday when he tried to explain his efforts to fend off Democratic calls for an assault weapons ban and universal background checks.
But even the modest proposal to give money to states to administer red flag laws and other emergency intervention procedures is drawing strong criticism from some prominent conservatives, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
“Red flag laws will not end mass shootings, but red flag laws will end due process,” Carlson said on Fox News. “Under red flag laws, the government doesn’t have to prove you did anything wrong in order to strip you of your most basic rights. All that’s required to punish you is a complaint.”
Erick Erickson, a conservative radio host and pundit, warned this month “that such laws are going to start being used to attack people because of their political opinions.”
The legislation would provide money to states to administer red flag laws and other intervention procedures to keep guns away from people deemed dangers to themselves or others.
Senators who drafted the language say there would be a swift adjudication process to give gun owners a chance to dispute and defeat a court order taking away their firearms.
The legislation would also invest more than $7 billion in mental health services, boost funding for school-based mental health and support services and invest in programs to strengthen safety measures around primary and secondary schools.
It would enhance the background check process for gun buyers ages 18 to 21 by allowing more access to juvenile crime records, clarify the definition of firearms dealers to include people who sell a large number of guns without a federal firearms license and crack down on illegal gun trafficking.
One of the last holdups within the group was over how to apply Hyde amendment language in the bill to ensure federal funding would not pay for abortions.