Bipartisan Senate Gun Control Talking Points

Calling it a "deal" is vastly over-selling it.

American Gun Laws

I am intentionally limiting my intake of news while on vacation but got the impression yesterday afternoon that something big happened on the gun control front. Actually reading the fine print gives a different impression.

WaPo (“Senators strike bipartisan gun deal, heralding potential breakthrough“):

A bipartisan group of senators announced Sunday that it had reached a tentative agreement on legislation that would pair modest new gun restrictions with significant new mental health and school security investments — a deal that could put Congress on a path to enacting the most significant national response in decades to acts of mass gun violence.

Twenty senators — 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans — signed a statement announcing the framework deal. The move indicated that the agreement could have enough GOP support to defeat a filibuster, the Senate supermajority rule that has impeded previous gun legislation.

[…]

Under the tentative deal, a federal grant program would encourage states to implement red-flag laws that allow authorities to keep guns away from people found by a judge to represent a potential threat to themselves or others, while federal criminal background checks for gun buyers younger than 21 would include a mandatory search of juvenile justice and mental health records for the first time.

Other provisions would prevent gun sales to a broader group of domestic violence offenders, closing what is often called the “boyfriend loophole”; clarify which gun sellers are required to register as federal firearms dealers and, thus, run background checks on customers; and establish new federal offenses related to gun trafficking.

The agreement does not include a provision supported by President Biden, congressional Democrats and a handful of Republicans that would raise the minimum age for the purchase of at least some rifles from 18 to 21. Handguns are already subject to a federal 21-and-older rule.

[…]

Other provisions would funnel billions of new federal dollars into mental health care and school security programs, funding behavioral intervention programs, new campus infrastructure and armed officers. One cornerstone of the deal is legislation sponsored by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) to establish a nationwide network of “community behavioral health clinics,” though the framework does not yet include an agreed funding level for that program or others.

The announcement represents the fruit of various bipartisan efforts launched in the days after the May 24 killing of 19 children and two teachers inside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tex., which itself came 10 days after a mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket.

[…]

Key pitfalls remain: The framework announced Sunday amounts to a statement of principles, not a fully written bill. While people involved in the process said last week that significant chunks of the legislation have already been written, new points of friction frequently arise in Congress as the drafting process plays out.

Red-flag laws, in particular, have raised many conservative Republicans’ hackles, though negotiators said last week that they thought there would be sufficient GOP support to pass a deal. The boyfriend loophole and firearms licensee provisions have also been subject to previous bipartisan talks that did not produce agreements.

Reuters (“Gun-reform deal reached in Senate with key Republican backing“) adds:

While an important breakthrough, the agreement does not ensure that legislation will be approved. Lawmakers still must hammer out legislative language that can attract enough votes to pass in both the Senate and House of Representatives, each narrowly controlled by Democrats.

Certainly, the fact that ten Republicans have signed onto this statement of principles gives one hope that some actual legislation will pass. But the devil is often in the details. Will the fleshed-out version of this still net the support of every single signatory? Will more than ten Democrats refuse to sign on because this doesn’t go far enough? I wouldn’t bet a whole lot on a prediction on either of those.

The WaPo Editorial Board (“The Senate’s bipartisan gun deal is an encouraging first step“) is cautiously optimistic.

No sooner had a bipartisan group of Senate negotiators announced on Sunday they had reached a tentative deal on a package of safety and gun-related measures than the criticism and second-guessing began. One common refrain was that the package was too modest. We’d also like to see more. But this agreement, if passed by Congress, would be the most significant piece of gun-safety legislation in more than 25 years, and for that, it should be applauded.

[…]

President Biden quickly embraced the deal, saying: “Obviously, it does not do everything that I think is needed, but it reflects important steps in the right direction, and would be the most significant gun safety legislation to pass Congress in decades.” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) pledged to put a bill on the floor as soon as possible once legislation is written. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) released a statement praising the negotiators but stopped short of pledging to support an eventual bill.

Like Mr. Biden, we think other reforms are needed. Notably, addressing the danger posed by assault weapons and high-capacity magazines — either banning them or, at the very least, raising the minimum age for buying them from 18 to 21, the same as is required for handgun purchases. But the compromise that has been worked out — credit to Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.) — is reasonable and meaningful. No, it won’t save all lives lost to gun violence, but it will save some. We urge Congress to approve it.

Given that one has to be 21 to legally buy a beer or a pack of cigarettes, it seems perfectly reasonable to set that limitation on buying firearms of all types. I’m more skeptical of singling out “assault weapons,” which aren’t really a thing, but they do seem to have some attraction to would-be spree killers. Then again, I’m old enough to remember when the boogeyman of weapons were cheap “Saturday Night Special” handguns.

Assuming this passes into law and survives judicial scrutiny, I agree with the WaPo editors that this is a modest step in the right direction. Given that the nation is awash in both guns and sociopaths, I’m skeptical that it will do much to stop mass shootings and other planned events. But it could put up enough of a barrier to impulse killings to have some impact.

FILED UNDER: Guns and Gun Control, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    Yesterday Atrios posted a tweet from Chris Murphy saying we need outside activism to push this through. Along with a reply asking the obvious question – if you have ten GOP senators signed on to this thing why do we need activism? Because it isn’t really a thing and they aren’t really signed on.

    This is a perfect example of the pass the country’s come to. We’re no longer able to take the simplest, most obvious actions. I feel sorry for Murphy. He so badly wants to deal with the problem, he’s thwarted by GOPs at every step, and he can’t call them out because he so badly wants to deal with the problem. Meanwhile Cronyn just shucks and jives, putting on a show until public attention fades.

    Meanwhile activists are supposed to enthusiastically push for a nothing burger bill that will get worse, and then fail. Sad.

    2
  2. steve says:

    Wont pass. Remember the ACA? Remember the group of GOP senators who agreed to “work toward compromise” dragging out negotiations for months and then bailing? Remember how that delay almost killed the bill when Kennedy died and his replacement was a Republican? Lucy is just going to pull away the football again.

    Steve

    8
  3. Kathy says:

    Is a crumb better than no loaf?

    Yes, but months or a year or later down the road, Republicans will claim “We gave away the crumb, so stop bugging me about gun control laws. They don’t work!”

    5
  4. MarkedMan says:

    @steve:

    Lucy is just going to pull away the football again.

    Couldn’t agree more. There are a good handful of Republicans who need to appear to be cooperating with Democrats. There are zero Republicans who could survive the wrath of the base if they actually cooperated with Democrats. They are already warming up their “… but then the Dems insisted on their radical anti-2nd amendment agenda” speech.

    3
  5. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    It certainly looks better than nothing (although that might be a mirage), but it’s probably enough better than nothing that it will never get to the floor. And the provision identifying people who +shouldbe licensed as gun dealers will probably result in a further diversification of an already beshadowed enterprise.

    1
  6. gVOR08 says:

    @MarkedMan: Political Wire notes that of the ten GOP senators, only Mitt Romney is up for re-election in 2024. The other nine are either retiring or up in 2026. And as best I can tell, none of them have committed to actually vote for anything. Real profiles in courage here. Midterms are in five months. Senators will stall for five months just out of habit.

    1
  7. john430 says:

    Conundrum: If long guns are not permitted until age 21, how do you plan to deal with military enlistees learning how to use semi-automatic AND fully automatic weapons at age 17? Do left-wingers plan to prohibit enlistees under age 21?

    3
  8. steve says:

    john430- In the US when you are in the military you dont have to buy your own weapon, the military provides it. The bill could prohibit those under 21 from buying a gun without affecting the military.

    Steve

    5
  9. EddieInCA says:

    @john430:

    Dude. Do you actually believe military enlistees purchase their own weapons?

    Wow. Be smarter. Please.

    Or, better yet, go over to Lucianne – dot – com and spread that cow manure over there.

    4
  10. EddieInCA says:

    @steve:

    Damn.

    I’d better start saving for my own tank before I join the Army.
    I’d better start saving for my own drone before I join the Air Force.
    I’d better start saving for my own ship before I join the Navy.

    Sheesh.

    2
  11. john430 says:

    @steve: @EddieInCA:
    Lefties don’t comprehend. I didn’t mention buying guns only their usage by underage boys. Try to keep up guys.

    FYI- I served in the Air Force.

    3
  12. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @john430: The same way we do for alcohol consumption?

  13. Kathy says:

    @EddieInCA:

    I’m sure he believes you shouldn’t think about the soundbite, just accept it axiomatically.

    1
  14. Gustopher says:

    @john430: Enlisted folks get to use all sorts of weapons the un enlisted do.

    From the quoted article:

    The agreement does not include a provision supported by President Biden, congressional Democrats and a handful of Republicans that would raise the minimum age for the purchase of at least some rifles from 18 to 21. Handguns are already subject to a federal 21-and-older rule.

    So, it doesn’t prevent the under 21 crowd from getting rifles, obliterating your claim once, but also the under 21 crowd already cannot buy handguns even though we know the military issues them when needed, obliterating your claim a second time.

    Thanks for playing, but try to put at least a little more effort into it next time.

    2
  15. JohnSF says:

    @john430:
    Being a foreigner, I don’t comment that often on matters of American political controversy; like guns, abortion etc.

    Beyond the basics: e.g. Donald Trump was, and is, both a stupid and exceedingly unpleasant person, and the last presidential election was won by Joe Biden.
    And neo-nationalists are walking a perilous road.
    Otherwise, on American affairs I am generally here to learn, not to teach.

    However, your statement

    FYI- I served in the Air Force

    couldn’t help but remind me of a remark by my late father, who also served in (a different) Air Force.
    This being a picture of his place of work for several years.

    I once asked him, a man who had been a keen rifle shooter at school, who owned guns for quite a long time, and who gave me some shooting instruction, what his opinion was of the right to bear arms as a basis of civil order.
    His response:
    “My lad, after sitting behind two or more large guns for several years, my considered opinion is that they have sod all utility in the functioning of a civilised society.”

    Just a thought from the past there.

    Also: almost every adult male of both sides of my family for two to three generations back, in addition to several cousins in my generation, wielded arms, or things a lot more powerful than mere guns, (Ride the Lightning!) in the cause of the Crown.
    (And a fair number of neighbours and miscellaneous acquaintances, come to that.)
    Me being an exception in some respects: I hate shouty people and early mornings. 🙂

    None that I can think of ever expressed much regret about being unable to freely accumulate an arsenal of military grade hardware at home in peacetime.

    1
  16. Scott O says:

    430 must be code for more stoned than 420