What’s in the bipartisan Senate guns deal set for a vote in the coming days?

The Capitol is seen at dawn as Congress returns to work in Washington, Tuesday, March 5, 2019. (G3 Box News Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

What’s in the bipartisan Senate guns deal set for a vote in the coming days?

Sarah Westwood

June 14, 06:00 AM June 14, 06:01 AM

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Senate lawmakers have unveiled the structure of their highly anticipated gun reform deal, touting the agreement as a rare moment of bipartisanship.

But Congress has much work to do before the agreement can become law.

“Will this bill do everything we need to end our nation’s gun violence epidemic? No,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), one of the deal’s lead negotiators, on Sunday. “But it’s real, meaningful progress. And it breaks a 30-year log jam, demonstrating that Democrats and Republicans can work together in a way that truly saves lives.”

Twenty senators, 10 from each party, signed on to a statement laying out the broad tenets of the agreement Sunday after weeks of negotiations that followed mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York.

Unanswered questions remain about how and when the deal will become law despite seemingly having enough pledged support at the present moment to survive the filibuster, which requires 60 Senate votes to overcome.


The reforms would tackle a number of issues in gun law that Democrats have characterized as problematic — though, in some cases, not as directly as the Left had wanted.

The bill would fund grants meant to incentivize states to pass their own red flag laws, which enable a court to determine whether a gun owner is dangerous enough to require authorities to take his or her firearms.

Red flag laws typically work by enabling friends and family to petition a court to issue crisis intervention orders, which allow for the removal of guns from a person’s home.

The deal would also close what is known as the “boyfriend” loophole.

While federal law does prohibit anyone convicted of abusing their spouse, live-in partner, or co-parent from buying a firearm, it does not stop an abusive dating partner from obtaining a gun, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group.

Lawmakers agreed to set aside billions of dollars for expanded mental health and school safety programs. Those include investments in expanding telehealth access for young people in need of mental healthcare, as well as investments in violence prevention efforts at school.

In an effort to regulate further what kinds of gun transactions require federal background checks, the deal would also clarify the definition of what constitutes a commercial firearm dealer, whose transactions are subject to more stringent background check requirements than private sellers.

Addressing a particularly contentious sticking point given that the shooting suspects in Uvalde and Buffalo were both 18 years old, the deal would implement new background check requirements on prospective gun owners under age 21. Anyone looking to buy certain kinds of rifles under 21 would have to wait until an enhanced background check was completed before they could pick up his or her guns. Handgun sales are already illegal for those under 21.

The bill would also crack down more aggressively on straw purchasing — when someone who is legally able to buy a gun purchases one on behalf of someone who is not.


Democrats had been hopeful that they could secure backing for a law that would raise the minimum age for the purchase of rifles from 18 to 21. The compromise strengthened background checks for younger buyers but did not touch the age limits.

Some discussions about pursuing a federal red flag law did not produce one in the deal — the grant program would encourage red flag laws on the state level but not nationally.

Previous rounds of gun talks had toyed with the prospect of expanding background checks to types of gun sales that don’t currently require them, such as private sales between friends, but such checks were only expanded in the case of young rifle buyers.

And the so-called Charleston loophole — named for the provision that allowed the shooter in the 2015 massacre in South Carolina to obtain his firearm before his background check, which could have shown him ineligible for gun ownership, was completed — would remain open under the deal.


Perils remain for the deal despite the promising amount of support its framework received this weekend.

All manner of snags could arise as congressional aides scramble to turn the broad framework into legislative text, which requires a level of potentially objectionable detail that the handshake deal has so far omitted.

Among the possible snags: how much the mental health programs cost and whether Republicans will pressure the negotiators to find ways to offset the new spending in the final bill.

The deal could also face challenges from those on the Left who could find the bill insufficiently tough on guns.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said Sunday that while she remains open to the possibility of supporting the agreement, she was “disappointed” that, in her view, it increases “juvenile criminalization.”

“We have to look at the text,” she said of what would have to happen before she could pledge support.


Senate lawmakers have said staff got to work drafting legislative text Monday, meaning the deal is moving forward with speed.

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Given the many components of the agreement, however, it could be a lengthy process that stretches beyond when supporters have said they want to see the deal advance.

Lawmakers are aiming to pass the bill by June 24, when Congress heads home for the July Fourth recess. All involved have acknowledged that such a goal is ambitious.

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