A bipartisan group of senators announced an agreement on principle for gun safety legislation Sunday, which includes “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,” they said in a statement.
Notably, the announcement includes the support of 10 Republican senators, which would give the proposal enough support to overcome the Senate filibuster. The agreement is significant given how divided lawmakers have been over the gun issue, but the actual legislative text is not yet written.
The proposal includes support for state crisis intervention orders, funding for school safety resources, an enhanced review process for buyers under the age of 21 and penalties for straw purchasing.
Critically, the legislation includes a so-called red flag provision, with the government providing “resources to states and tribes to create and administer laws that help ensure deadly weapons are kept out of the hands of individuals whom a court has determined to be a significant danger to themselves or others,” according to the release. The proposal would also include “major investments to increase access to mental health and suicide prevention programs; and other support services available in the community, including crisis and trauma intervention and recovery.”
Additionally, the legislation would provide resources “to expand mental health and supportive services in schools, including: early identification and intervention programs and school based mental health and wrap-around services.”
The group on the release includes Republican Sens. John Cornyn of Texas, Thom Tillis and Richard Burr of North Carolina, Roy Blunt of Missouri, 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. Democratic senatores on the release include Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly of Arizona, Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Chris Coons of Delaware, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. It also includes Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with Democrats.
President Joe Biden said Sunday that the agreement “does not do everything that I think is needed, but it reflects important steps in the right direction.”
If passed, Biden wrote, the framework would mark “the most significant gun safety legislation to pass Congress in decades,” adding, “With bipartisan support, there are no excuses for delay, and no reason why it should not quickly move through the Senate and the House.”
“Each day that passes, more children are killed in this country: the sooner it comes to my desk, the sooner I can sign it, and the sooner we can use these measures to save lives.”
Biden also thanked Murphy, who led negotiations for Democrats, as well as Cornyn, Sinema and Tillis.
“The principles they announced today show the value of dialogue and cooperation,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in a statement. “I continue to hope their discussions yield a bipartisan product that makes significant headway on key issues like mental health and school safety, respects the Second Amendment, earns broad support in the Senate, and makes a difference for our country.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would put a bill on the floor “as soon as possible.”
“After an unrelenting wave of gun-related suicides and homicides, including mass shootings, the Senate is poised to act on commonsense reforms to protect Americans where they live, where they shop, and where they learn” the New York Democrat said. “We must move swiftly to advance this legislation because if a single life can be saved it is worth the effort.”
Still, the agreement would be significant given how divided lawmakers have been over the gun issue, even in the wake of a series of devastating mass shootings, including one that killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
One source with knowledge of the discussions said negotiators were hoping to get 10 Republican senators to sign on to the agreement before it was announced, in order to show they can overcome the 60-vote filibuster threshold. The Senate is currently evenly divided between the Democratic and GOP conferences with 50 seats each.
The four main Senate negotiators – Murphy, Sinema, Cornyn and Tillis – were in talks all weekend to hammer out the final details and have also been in discussions with a larger bipartisan group of negotiators.
The House voted 223-204 last week to pass a wide-ranging package of gun control legislation called the Protecting Our Kids Act. The measure is not expected to pass the Senate, however, amid widespread GOP opposition to stricter gun control.
Passage of the legislation in the House took place hours after an emotional hearing on gun violence in which families of victims pleaded for more action.
Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland on Sunday praised the Senate negotiators prior to the announcement for their work on the legislation but stopped short of voicing his support for the forthcoming package.
“Well, we would certainly vote on it and work on it,” he said on “State of the Union” when asked if would vote for the bill, adding: “It’s moving in the right direction. We’re glad the Senate is finally awake about this.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive Democrat from New York, said later on the same program that she would be willing to support the legislation “if we get a real baby step, not kind of a distraction, I think, from the solution.” She stressed that including a provision for background checks is critical.
“You know, I believe that, if we can get background checks through, my hope – my hope is that it’s a yes” on the legislation, Ocasio-Cortez said.
This story has been updated with news of the announced agreement.