The prospects of gun and mental health legislation being signed into law
Now that a bipartisan group of senators have announced a deal on a legislative response to mass shootings, the question is what are its chances of passing Congress and being signed by President Biden into law.
The prognosis is pretty good.
In an interview Sunday, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said “the heavy lifting is done” and “we have a pretty firm agreement.”
Republican aides, however, are sounding more cautious, saying that legislative text still must be written and agreed to — a process that can become difficult.
A good sign is that the statement announcing the deal was signed by 10 Republicans — the minimum number needed to pass the Senate. They are: Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), and Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.).
Shortly after, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) released a statement saying he’d put the measure up for a vote as soon as it is ready. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he is “glad” the senators “are continuing to make headway.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called it “a step forward.”
Here’s what’s on the table:
- Incentives for states to implement red flag laws
- Enhanced background checks for 18-21 year old buyers by accessing juvenile records
- Criminalizing third party straw purchases
- Closing the “boyfriend” loophole in domestic violence cases
- Funding for school mental health and telehealth
- Funding for school safety resources
- Clarifying federal firearm license requirements and criminalizing evasion
Well, the National Rifle Association hasn’t publicly taken a stance on the measure. And if it decides to denounce the proposal, it could make much-needed Republican lawmakers skittish.
Our colleague Mike DeBonis and Leigh Ann report that an NRA spokeswoman said Sunday that the group “will make our position known when the full text of the bill is available for review.”
- “The NRA will continue to oppose any effort to insert gun-control policies, initiatives that override constitutional due process protections, and efforts to deprive law-abiding citizens of their fundamental right to protect themselves and their loved ones into this or any other legislation,” said NRA spokeswoman, Amy Hunter.
The more hard line Gun Owners of America put out a warning last week when the parameters of a framework started to come together, calling Republicans in the negotiations RINOs (Republicans in Name Only). As of publish time, they group hadn’t released a statement on the agreement.
What about the gun safety groups?
Advocacy groups who have been pushing for gun restrictions for years are applauding the framework deal by a bipartisan group of Senate negotiators.
The plaudits are coming even as the proposal doesn’t go nearly as far as many on the left would have liked, including by raising the age for purchasing an assault-style weapon to 21. Some called for a ban on assault weapons and on high-capacity magazines.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Everytown for Gun Safety both cast the agreement as a historic breakthrough, Mike and Leigh Ann wrote:
- “Everytown President John Feinblatt said that, if enacted, the framework would be “the most significant piece of gun safety legislation to make it through Congress in 26 long and deadly years,” while Brady President Kris Brown called it “a 30-year breakthrough in the making” and “a historic, new beginning that breaks the stranglehold of the gun industry.”
- “In a less broken society, we would be able to require background checks every single time someone wants to buy a gun, and we would ban assault rifles outright,” said March for Our Lives co-founder David Hogg. “But if even one life is saved or one attempted mass shooting is prevented because of these regulations, we believe that it is worth fighting for.”
- “This bipartisan framework is a major step in finally getting federal action to address gun violence and, if passed, will save lives,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, said.
- Gabby Giffords, the former congresswoman from Arizona who was shot in the head at a campaign event, praised the deal, telling lawmakers, “The nation’s counting on you.”
Robin Lloyd, managing director of Giffords, acknowledged advocates wanted the more restrictive measures the House passed last week, but said this agreement “is absolutely not worthless. This is a strong package. This is going to save lives.”
Even mental health advocates, who feared people with mental illnesses would be scapegoated as perpetrators of gun violence even though they are five times more likely to be victims of crime, called the deal “an encouraging step in the right direction.”
“While there is much more to be done to address the dual epidemics of gun violence and mental health, we are grateful for the leadership of this bipartisan group of senators who brought forward this proposal,” Bill Smith, founder of Inseparable, said.
Detractors on both sides “is the sign of a good agreement,” Murphy on Sunday said. “This is the moment where this 30-year impasse is broken.”
Elissa Slotkin is already lobbying House Republicans to back the Senate’s gun package
Seven questions for … Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.): We spoke on Thursday with the author of part of the gun legislation that passed the House last week about how she’s been been working to win over House Republicans, her frustrations with House leadership and what she’s hearing on guns from constituents in her swing district. This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
The Early: The House passed a package on Wednesday that included the gun storage legislation you introduced last year following a deadly school shooting in Oxford, Mich. Is there a minimum threshold the Senate package needs to meet to earn your vote?
Slotkin: I actually feel pretty positive that most people on the Democratic side of the House would be willing to vote for almost anything. But as a failsafe against some Democrats not being willing to vote on a more limited compromise package, I’m already talking to my Republican counterparts in the House — the ones who voted [for] the bill, the ones who are showing a lot more openness on certain provisions — and trying to get them in the conversation early, so that if the Senate comes back to us with a compromise bill that we have enough votes in the House to pass it between more moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans.
The Early: Do you fear that if the Senate gun bill does not go far enough in the eyes of some House Democrats on the party’s left flank that they might refuse to vote for it?
Slotkin: On many, many votes in the past year or two years, we’ve had a number of Democrats who opt not to vote for Democratic bills because they don’t go far enough for them. I have to assume that at least some might consider doing the same thing this time around. I’m someone who is a representative of a district that had a school shooting. I’m going to do whatever I can to move the needle at least a little bit on this issue. And the most helpful thing I think I can do for the cause is engage with my Republican colleagues privately and early and get them on board so that we might have enough votes to pass whatever comes through the Senate.
The Early: You were one of only two Democrats to vote on Wednesday against a resolution condemning so-called great replacement theory that Democrats attached to a procedural motion to advance the gun package. What happened there?
Slotkin: Well, that was a procedural issue where I was frustrated with leadership on the way they handled this gun bill — doing it [as] one giant bill instead of each individual bill broken out. I had written a letter along with [Rep.] Abigail Spanberger [(D-Va.)] and I think 20-plus other members of the House saying how I thought it let people off the hook. It didn’t encourage getting as much bipartisan support for as many bills as we could. And I expressed my frustration by voting against the rule. It had nothing to do with the white replacement theory.
The Early: What’s your sense of why Democratic leadership didn’t heed your concerns?
Slotkin: Honestly, most of us don’t know the real answer. We kept getting different answers. Everyone would say, “Well, go talk to this person in leadership. Go talk to this person in leadership.” It kept kind of going round and round in circles. That’s why I voted against the rule.
The Early: You’re running for reelection in a swing district that’s largely suburban and rural. What have you heard from voters back home on guns?
Slotkin: I got more calls in the past two weeks, since the Uvalde shooting, than I have in the previous four years from Republican friends and colleagues, from hunters, from sportsmen, from folks who own a great number of firearms and who describe themselves as conservative Second Amendment gun owners. I’ve gotten calls from union leaders. I’ve gotten calls from sheriffs and former sheriffs. I’ve gotten calls from superintendents of some of my school districts who are avid hunters — all saying enough is enough.
The Early: You’re one of only a dozen or so House Democrats who haven’t signed on to the assault weapons ban bill that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pledged to hold a hearing on. Do you have concerns about that legislation?
Slotkin: I think it’s good that it’s getting an airing, and if it came to the floor I would vote for it.
The Early: What’s held you back from becoming a cosponsor?
Slotkin: Look, there’s two semiautomatic ranges in my district. My own accountant has a semiautomatic. There are lots of people in my district who use it for sport. I wish we had better laws in place that would make it much easier to separate law-abiding citizens who are gun owners from people who are out to do terrible, horrific things. In place of those good laws, I would vote for the ban if it came to the floor.
Monday’s Jan 6. hearing to focus on Donald Trump’s ‘dereliction of duty’ during Capitol attack
Round 2: “The second public hearing by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection will focus on then-President Donald Trump’s baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen — dubbed the ‘big lie’ — and how those false claims were connected to the pro-Trump mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol that day in a bid to stop the certification of Biden’s electoral college win,” per our colleagues Amy B Wang and Jacqueline Alemany.
Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) will lead the hearing with an assist from Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.). Together they “will also dissect the fundraising apparatus that was built around the ‘big lie’ to drive up the post-election cash haul.”
Five witnesses – “likely to bolster the committee’s assertion that Trump had a ‘seven-part plan’ to overturn the results of the 2020 election” – will appear before the committee today:
- Bill Stepien, Trump’s former campaign manager
- Chris Stirewalt, a former political editor for Fox News
- Benjamin Ginsberg, a Republican election lawyer
- B.J. “BJay” Pak, a former U.S. attorney
- Al Schmidt, a former city commissioner of Philadelphia
If the gun deal passes the Senate, it could go one of two ways in the House — barely passing or passing with big margins.
But one group that has been silent since the deal was announced on Sunday are House progressives. It’s hard to imagine the measure passing the House without them so we will be watching to see if this agreement does enough for them to support the eventual bill.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is the only one of the four congressional leaders who hasn’t weighed in on the agreement. What he says will likely indicate how House Republicans respond.
Be there or be square 👎