Senators Talk Expanded Gun Background Checks and Red Flag Laws

WASHINGTON (AP) — A bipartisan group of senators is considering how Congress should respond to the horrific shooting of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, by reviving gun control talks that have failed several times before.

Aware of the difficulty of their task, Democrats and Republicans say they hope to find an agreement on legislation that could help reduce the number of mass killings in the United States. Uvalde’s shooting came 10 days after a gunman opened fire in a racist attack killing black people at a supermarket in Buffalo, NY.

The senators narrowed the discussion down to a few ideas, many of which are based on laws they’ve been working on for years, such as expanded background checks or red flag laws that keep guns away from people who could do harm. . Led by Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, the Group of 10 hopes to negotiate a proposal during the upcoming Senate recess and prepare it for a vote in early June.

It’s unclear whether the group can reach a consensus, and even if they do, winning enough votes from Republicans could prove difficult, as most don’t want to see changes to state laws on fire arms. Democrats would need 10 Republican votes to overcome a filibuster and ram a bill through the Senate 50-50.

“The odds are stacked against us, but we owe it to parents and children to try,” tweeted Murphy, who has been a leading advocate for stricter gun control since 20 children and six educators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. 2012.

A look at the proposals under consideration, and others that are not:


Senators coming out of a bipartisan meeting on Thursday were talking about the possibility of pushing states to pass red flag laws that take guns away from people at risk of harming themselves or others.

Many states have passed red flag laws, including Florida, which passed a law after the 2018 Parkland high school shooting, and Maine, which has a “yellow flag” law that requires a professional to health to be signed before weapons are removed. Maine Senator Susan Collins, a moderate Republican, has been pushing for something similar at the federal level.

Republicans are unlikely to embark with red flag status for the entire country. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican who is also part of the group, said after the meeting that it would be a non-runner, “regardless of color.”

Instead, they discuss whether federal grants could incentivize states to implement such flag laws, an idea explored in recent years by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla. Blumenthal, who is working with Graham on the compromise proposal, said the “complicated and difficult part” will be figuring out what the standards are for removing a reported person’s firearms.

Still, Blumenthal said “there is a powerful emotional element to the red flag status that gives it momentum, especially after Uvalde and Buffalo, where the shooter showed very strong signs that he was dangerous. “. The New York shooter had been reported by his school, but the state’s red flag law was not triggered.

The House plans to pass its own version of the red flag legislation when it returns from a two-week recess on June 6.


The senses. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., have been trying for nearly a decade to pass thorough background checks on all commercial gun sales, including at gun shows in fire and on the Internet. Under current law, background checks are only required when guns are purchased from federally licensed dealers.

The idea has broad public support, even among many gun owners, but the two senators have faced resistance from congressional Republicans who want no change, as well as groups like the National Rifle Association. Various versions of the proposal have been repeatedly defeated in the Senate, including in 2013 after the Newtown massacre and in 2016 after a shooting in which 49 people were killed at an Orlando, Florida nightclub.

The House passed legislation last year that would extend background checks to nearly all sales, including private sales. The senators have since been in talks about working out a version that could pass their chamber, but they have not yet reached an agreement. Manchin says the House version goes too far and could interfere with informal sales between people who know each other.

Manchin and Toomey, who is retiring this year, are on the Senate task force and tasked with finding a compromise on their proposal — perhaps for the last time. Toomey said Thursday that the measure does not have enough support to pass at this time, “but hopefully we get there.”


Republicans who have traditionally opposed gun control have embraced the idea of ​​’toughening up’ schools, giving money for more resources, law enforcement officers or even arming teachers.

Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota suggested this week that Congress “promote direct funding to local units, so that we can have the resources to add additional protections to deter these people.”

Murphy said Thursday he was “open” to adding funds for school safety and that the task force was looking at what could be done in that regard. But Democrats have adamantly opposed arming teachers, and they say money for security is not enough.


A second bill passed by the House last year would extend the review period for background checks from three to 10 days. Rep. Jim Clyburn, DS.C., introduced the bill after a gunman killed nine people at a historic church in Black Charleston, SC, in 2015.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer began the process of bringing the bill to the Senate this week, but it does not appear to be part of negotiations in the Senate.

The FBI said after the Charleston shooting that a background check examiner never saw the shooter’s previous arrest report because the wrong arresting agency was on state criminal records and the arms dealer was legally authorized to complete the transaction after three days. Clyburn and other supporters of the legislation say it would solve that problem.

Republicans have overwhelmingly opposed the legislation, saying it could delay purchases for legitimate gun owners.


An assault weapons ban passed in the 1990s expired 10 years later, and Democrats were unable to muster the votes to pass another. The Senate rejected a renewed ban in 2013, along with the Manchin-Toomey proposal, after the Newtown shootings. Senators also rejected a ban on high-capacity magazines that year.

Biden proposed an assault weapons ban last year, and many Democrats believe it would be one of the most effective ways to curb mass shootings because they almost always involve these types of weapons. But a ban has almost no support among Republicans and has not been part of the discussions so far.

Murphy, who gave an impassioned speech in the Senate on Tuesday at news of the Texas shooting, said he wanted to start with workable proposals.

“There’s a common denominator that we can find,” Murphy said. “There is a place where we can come to an agreement.”

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