Senate gun safety bill advances, passage likely this week

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., speaks to reporters outside the Senate Chambers of the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images/TNS

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted 64-34 to advance bipartisan gun safety legislation Tuesday hours after negotiators announced they had reached a deal, with final passage likely later this week.

Backers called the bill, aimed at improving background checks, securing schools and giving states federal funds to combat gun violence, the biggest breakthrough on the issue in decades.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the lead Republican negotiator, said the legislation “will help keep our children and our communities safer.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York quickly teed up the procedural vote aimed at finishing the bill before senators leave for the July 4 recess at the end of the week.

Senators, who have long struggled to find common ground on gun safety, restarted stalled negotiations last month following the massacres at the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and a grocery store in Buffalo, where a total of 31 people were killed.

Details of the legislation were hashed out by four Senate negotiators: Republicans Cornyn and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and Democrats Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

Murphy praised Cornyn — who was booed at his state’s Republican convention over the weekend — for sticking with the negotiations.

“John has been clear from the beginning, he wants to get something done, but he’s not willing to do anything that compromises Second Amendment rights,” Murphy said. “And we’ve been able to stick to the parameters that he set — while sticking to the parameters that I set, which is that we needed to do something meaningful.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement he supports the bill as “a commonsense package of popular steps that will help make these horrifying incidents less likely while fully upholding the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”

The National Rifle Association, however, announced its opposition to the bill Tuesday night.

“This legislation can be abused to restrict lawful gun purchases, infringe upon the rights of law-abiding Americans, and use federal dollars to fund gun-control measures being adopted by state and local politicians,” the NRA said in a statement.

Under the agreement, every state will have the opportunity for grants to help pay for crisis intervention programs, regardless of whether they set up “red flag” laws that allow judges to remove guns from potentially dangerous owners.

It also provides for improvements to the national background check system, including giving states incentives to upload juvenile records to allow better reviews of gun purchasers aged 18 to 21.

The bill also will include billions of dollars in funding to help secure schools and bolster mental health resources.

The “boyfriend loophole,” aimed at barring convicted dating partners from buying guns, also would be closed. But in a compromise, a person convicted of a misdemeanor for attacking a dating partner could be allowed to buy a gun again after five years. The provision is modeled after current law that allows domestic abusers to be restricted if they are married to, have lived with or have a child with the victim.

The bill also would provide stiff new federal criminal penalties for people who make straw purchases and traffic guns to be used in crime, or who illegally evade licensing requirements.

Ten Republicans earlier signed onto a framework for the legislation, the number that would be needed to push legislation past an expected filibuster in the Senate.

Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates gun safety measures, is backed by Michael Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP.

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Tribune Wire

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