A surprise: Senate group reaches deal on gun control package

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“Gun control” is a misnomer in this case, actually. Most Republicans, including lead negotiator John Cornyn, oppose any measures that would limit law-abiding people’s access to guns. That includes banning under-21s from buying AR-15s even though they’re already barred by federal law from buying handguns from licensed dealers.


What this package aims to do is what we might call “lunatic control.” Congress is going to spend some money to try to get America’s fringe crazies the mental health treatment they need and, failing that, to prevent them from getting their hands on guns.

Important to note: This is just a framework, an agreement in principle. There’s no legislative language yet that the two sides have signed off on, and you and I know that the devil’s in the details. Having said that, it’s notable that 10 Republicans joined this morning’s press release. That’s what Schumer needs to beat a filibuster, of course.

Four of the five Republicans who are retiring from the Senate this year are part of the deal. And none of the other six listed above are up for reelection this fall; Lisa Murkowski is, which probably explains why she hasn’t signed on. More from CNN:

Sources involved in the talks said the agreement outline includes providing funding to incentivize states to implement “red flag” laws, an expansion of mental health services by growing a 10-state pilot program for behavioral health services to all 50 states, allowing juvenile records to be searched during background checks for those under 21 years of age, and funding for school security measures. It would also change the background check system to better crack down on criminals who evade that system by using smaller “hobbyists” to illegally buy guns.


The deal would also close the “boyfriend loophole” by barring domestic abusers from buying guns even if they weren’t married to, or lived with, their victim.

Eager to assure midterm swing voters that the GOP isn’t indifferent to the plague of mass shootings, Mitch McConnell sounds enthused:

Lead Democratic negotiator Chris Murphy is celebrating “real, meaningful progress” on social media this morning, but he also knows that time is of the essence. The Senate is set to recess for two weeks at the end of the month, which is plenty of time for the 10 Republicans involved to get an earful from pro-gun constituents and develop cold feet.

in an interview Thursday, Murphy said he believed that the chamber had two weeks left to act — before lawmakers leave Washington for a two-week Independence Day recess.

But meeting even that timeline would require a framework for a deal to be put in place quickly, Murphy said, citing the likelihood that gun-rights supporters in the Senate would seek to erect procedural hurdles to any potential legislation.

“We can’t come to agreement the last week we’re here,” he said. “There are people in the Senate that are no doubt going to use every rule available to them to hold this up and slow it down.”


Gun expert Stephen Gutowski believes an earful is coming:

A question: Even if the 10 Republicans hang in there with Murphy, are we sure this bill can pass? Pelosi has a tiny margin to work with in the House and progressives are destined to find the deal to be very thin gruel. Jamie Raskin was asked in an interview today whether he’d support it and dodged, saying only that “it’s moving in the right direction.” AOC was also pressed about it and pledged to support a bill only “if we get a real baby step, not kind of a distraction, I think, from the solution.”

I expect most red-state governors to respond to the deal in the weeks ahead by saying, “Hell, no, we won’t accept any federal money to set up a red-flag system. We care too much about due process in our state to do that.” If Ocasio-Cortez and Raskin become convinced that the federal red-flag grant program — the key provision in the deal — won’t actually lead to any new red-flag laws passing, will they tank the bill in the House?


Why give Senate Republicans political cover to say that they’ve Done Something here if red states aren’t actually going to do something?

On the other hand, there’s more to the deal than the grant program. As AOC said, the expanded background checks for under-21s is meaningful. And if Dems kill the bill because it doesn’t do enough, that in itself will provide tremendous political cover for Republicans. “We tried to Do Something but Democrats wouldn’t let us! They’re the ones who are unwilling to compromise, not us.”

I think Pelosi will get the votes she needs, particularly since there’s money for mental health care here. Lefties will appreciate that even if having more neighborhood clinics doesn’t end up reducing the number of mass shootings. Besides, I think some Democrats believe that it’s essential to break the ice with Republicans on gun legislation in hopes of convincing them to do more after the next 10 massacres. “Clearly what we passed in 2022 was insufficient,” Murphy will say next time.

If he believes that logic will persuade the GOP to take further steps, though, he’s naive. Republicans will simply point to the red-flag grant program in today’s compromise and say that the matter is in the hands of the states now. Maybe they’ll agree in the future to boost the amount spent on mental health but that’s as much as Dems should expect. For Senate Republicans, this deal will be their “get out of passing further legislation free” card.


But then, since they haven’t been willing to pass anything on guns for decades, they’ve already been playing that card. Murphy and the Dems would be fools not to seize a moment in which Republicans have briefly put that card away.

By the way, there might be 10 Republican votes in the Senate to raise the minimum age to buy an AR-15 to 21 even though Cornyn himself is personally opposed. If, hypothetically, Murkowski were willing to sign onto that along with the other nine Republicans involved in today’s deal, would Schumer put that amendment on the floor? Cornyn would be furious at him for betraying the terms of their deal, I assume. Some GOPers who might otherwise support today’s package might balk, driving the number of Republicans willing to support a package down to the bare 10. That would embitter both sides at a rare instance of bipartisan cooperation on guns. How badly do Schumer and Murphy want that minimum-age provision?

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