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U.S. senators reach deal on gun legislation in aftermath of Uvalde shooting

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn
Chris Usher
Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn

WASHINGTON - A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators, including Texan John Cornyn, announced Sunday the framework for a legislative deal to address gun violence in the aftermath of the May 24 mass shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead at a Uvalde elementary school.

The tentative deal includes a mix of modest gun control proposals and funding for mental health. It would incentivize states to pass “red flag” laws, which are designed to keep guns out of the hands of individuals who pose a threat to themselves or others; boost funding for mental health services, telehealth resources and more school security; permit juvenile records to be incorporated into background checks for purchasers under the age of 21 and crack down on the straw purchase and trafficking of guns.

“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,” said a joint statement from the bipartisan negotiating group that included Cornyn and nine other Republican senators. “Our plan increases needed mental health resources, improves school safety and support for students, and helps ensure dangerous criminals and those who are adjudicated as mentally ill can’t purchase weapons.”
“Most importantly, our plan saves lives while also protecting the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans,” the news release stated. “We look forward to earning broad, bipartisan support and passing our commonsense proposal into law.”

Sources involved with the negotiations caution there is not yet legislative text to the deal and its prospects remain fragile as the Senate heads into what is expected to be a frenetic week. That 10 Republican senators signed onto the plan adds confidence that a potential bill will overcome the 60-vote threshold needed to bypass a filibuster threat.

The 10 Republican senators are Cornyn, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Rob Portman of Ohio and Mitt Romney of Utah.

On Twitter, President Joe Biden signaled support for the proposal.

"It does not do everything that I think is needed, but it reflects important steps in the right direction," he said. "With bipartisan support, there are no excuses for delay. Let’s get this done."

A push to incentivize red flag laws in Texas seems challenging. Gov. Greg Abbott briefly floated the idea after the 2018 mass shooting at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas. But he soon abandoned it after he said he observed a “coalescence” in the Texas Legislature against the proposal. Since then, the Legislature has been aggressive in expanding gun rights, including passing a law allowing people to carry handguns without a license.

Over the last two decades, there are few challenges that have stymied the U.S. Senate quite on the scale of regulating firearms. But in the weeks since massacres in Uvalde and Buffalo, many senators have professed a determination to find a path to pass a gun bill, with the state’s senior senator leading the charge.

Still, the proposal will likely draw frustration from many gun control advocates, who have called for measures like raising the age at which people can buy AR-15-style weapons from 18 to 21.

The U.S. House passed last week a package of gun regulation laws that are all but certain to fail in the Senate. The measure would have raised the purchasing age for semiautomatic rifles and banned high-capacity magazines.

Democrats are signaling that nearly any Senate-passed gun bill — even a modest one — will receive a positive reception in the House chamber.

CNN reported the details earlier on Sunday.