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Senators could vote this week after agreement finalised on gun reform legislation

Bill text released after weeks of negotiations, but already has Mitch McConnell’s support

John Bowden
Washington DC
Tuesday 21 June 2022 23:49 BST
Pelosi warns against 'subterfuge' in gun-control legislation negotiations
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Negotiators in the Senate said on Tuesday that they had reached a bipartisan agreement on gun ownership reforms as well as funding for mental health treatment and school safety initiatives, bringing Congress one step closer to passing the most consequential federal gun violence legislation in decades.

Sen Chris Murphy told reporters that while the lawmakers were still finalising the text of the bill itself, the compromise’s significant issues had been ironed out.

“We have an agreement,” Mr Murphy said on Tuesday, noting that senators were “still dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s”.

John Cornyn, the senior senator from Texas and lead Republican negotiator on the issue, indicated his agreement in a speech on the Senate floor where he declared that the release of the actual bill text would happen “at any moment”.

Were that the case, the Senate could vote presumably as soon as later this week on the bill’s final passage. Despite the compromise text not being public yet, the working framework released earlier this month won the support of not only the 10 Republicans involved in the talks but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as well.

The framework called for expanded background checks on gun buyers under the age of 21, as well as the closing of the so-called “boyfriend loophole” which allowed some people convicted of domestic violence to continue purchasing firearms. It also establishes a grant programme to encourage the passage of “red flag laws” in states which allows courts to temporarily restrict gun ownership of persons if law enforcement or their own family prove they are a danger to themselves or others.

The bill would also reportedly provide some funding for expanding access to mental health care in the US, though it’s not yet clear what form that will take. It comes in response to a nationwide outpouring of support for federal action to address gun violence and school shootings in particular after two back-to-back massacres committed by suspects under the age of 21 with AR-15-style rifles in a supermarket in New York and an elementary school in Texas.

“Will this bill do everything we need to end our nation’s gun violence epidemic? No. But it’s real, meaningful progress. And it breaks a 30 year log jam, demonstrating that Democrats and Republicans can work together in a way that truly saves lives,” said Mr Murphy earlier this month.

“Drafting this law and passing it through both chambers will not be easy. We have a long way before this gets to the President’s desk. But with your help and activism, we can get this done. This time, failure cannot be an option,” he added at the time.

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