Washington – Democratic and Republican senators disagreed on Thursday over how to keep firearms off dangerous people as negotiators struggled over details ofin time for their self-imposed deadline for holding votes in Congress next week.
Lawmakers said they remained divided on defining abusive dating partners who would be legally barred from buying firearms. Disagreements were also unresolved over proposals to send money to states with “red flag” laws that allow authorities to temporarily seize weapons from people deemed dangerous by courts, and to other states for their own programs violence prevention.
Negotiations over the election year looked like a deal, with both sides fearing voter punishment if Congress fails to respond to the carnage from last month’s mass shootings. A total of 31 people have been killed in a supermarket inand a primary school † A draft of a deal has been approved by President Joe Biden, Senate Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., ., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a leading GOP negotiator, looked visibly unhappy as he left Thursday’s closed-door session after nearly two hours and said he was flying home.
“This is the hardest part because at some point you just have to make a decision. And if people don’t want to make a decision, you can’t get the result. And that’s kind of where we are now,” Cornyn said.
“I’m not frustrated, I’m done,” he added, though he said he was open to further discussions.
Lawmakers have said a deal must be finalized and written in legislative language by the end of the week for Congress to vote next week. After that, a break of 4 July starts. Leaders want to vote by then because Washington has a long track record of responding to mass shootings, only to see the interest of lawmakers and voters quickly fade over time.
Other negotiators seemed more optimistic, saying much of the overall package has been agreed and aides were drafting bills.
“A deal like this is tough,” Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said as the meeting ended. “It comes with a lot of emotions, it carries political risks for both parties. But we are close enough to get there.”
The measure would impose only small-scale curbing of firearms. Biden and Democrats lack proposals to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, such as those used in Buffalo and Uvalde, or to raise the legal age for purchasing assault rifles from 18 to 21.
Still, it would be Congress’ most powerful move against gun violence since 1993. A ban that lawmakers enacted that year on assault weapons went into effect in 1994 and expired after ten years. Numerous high-profile mass shootings since then have yielded little from Washington, but a partisan standoff, largely because Republicans blocked virtually all new restrictions.
Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates for firearms restrictions, said on Friday that 500 business leaders and CEOs had signed a letter calling on senators to take action on gun safety. That number had more than doubled since the group announced the letter a week earlier. Among the companies on board, according to Everytown: Levi Strauss & Co., Bain Capital, Northwell Health, Bloomberg LP, Yelp, Lyft, DoorDash, J. Crew, the San Francisco Giants and 49ers, and the Philadelphia Eagles and the†
Federal law prohibits people convicted of domestic violence against a spouse from purchasing guns, but leaves a loophole for other romantic relationships. Everytown for Gun Safety says 31 states are banning convicted domestic abusers from buying firearms, including 19 that cover abusive dating partners.
Senators disagree on how to define such relationships, with Republicans working against a broad provision. sen. North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, the other lead GOP negotiator, said negotiators would use some state statutes as their guide, though their laws vary.
“You have to make sure you capture anyone beating up their girlfriends,” said Murphy, a Democrat.
In addition, 19 states and the District of Columbia have “red flag” laws. Cornyn and the other chief negotiator, Senator Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., represent states that don’t, and it’s unclear how the money in the bill would be distributed among them.
Senators have not said what the total price tag of the measure will be, although people following the talks have said they expect it to be around $15 billion or $20 billion. Legislators are looking for budget cuts to pay for those costs.
Twenty senators, ten from each party, voted last weekend on the outline of a compromise measure. Top negotiators have worked hard to translate it into details ever since.
The framework includes access to the juvenile records of gun buyers between the ages of 18 and 20. Both gunmen at Buffalo and Uvalde were 18, and both used AR-15-style rifles, which can load high-capacity magazines.
The plan also includes additional spending on mental health and school safety programs, tougher gun trafficking penalties, and requirements that slightly more gun dealers obtain federal firearms licenses.