Senators have moved to the brink of an agreement on a bipartisan gun violence bill, Democrats' lead negotiator said Tuesday, potentially teeing up votes this week on an incremental but notable package that would stand as Congress’s response to mass shootings in Texas and New York that shook the nation.
Nine days after Senate bargainers agreed to a framework proposal — and 29 years after Congress last enacted a major measure curbing firearms — Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., told reporters that a final agreement on the proposal's details was at hand.
The legislation lawmakers have been working toward would toughen background checks for the youngest firearms buyers, require more sellers to conduct background checks and beef up penalties on gun traffickers. It also would disburse money to states and communities aimed at improving school safety and mental health initiatives.
"I think we’ve reached agreement," Murphy said. "And just we’re dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s right now. I think we’re in good shape."
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the chief Republican bargainer, spoke on the Senate floor moments later and said he, Murphy and the other two top Senate bargainers had "reached agreement."
The senators did not initially say how they’d resolved the two major stumbling blocks that had delayed agreement on the plan’s legislative language.
One was how to make abusive romantic partners subject to the existing ban that violent spouses face to obtaining guns. The other was providing federal aid to states that have "red flag" laws that make it easier to temporarily take firearms away from people deemed dangerous or to states that have violence intervention programs.
If enacted, the election-year measure would spotlight a modest but telling shift in the politics of an issue that has defied compromise since Bill Clinton was president.
After 10 Black shoppers were killed last month in Buffalo, New York, and 19 children and two teachers died days later in Uvalde, Texas, Democrats and some Republicans decided that this time, measured steps were preferable to Congress’ usual reaction to such horrors — gridlock.