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Democratic, Republican lawmakers push to maintain momentum in U.S. Senate gun talks

Democratic, Republican lawmakers push to maintain momentum in U.S. Senate gun talks

reuters.com · 06/09/2022 06:00
Democratic, Republican lawmakers push to maintain momentum in U.S. Senate gun talks

By David Morgan

- A rare bipartisan effort in the U.S. Senate to agree on legislation to address a wave of mass shootings could reach a watershed moment on Thursday as lawmakers decide whether the drive has enough momentum to succeed.

About a dozen lawmakers led by Democratic Senator Chris Murphy and Republican Senator John Cornyn are trying to find common ground on a plan that would bolster school security, address gaps in the U.S. mental health system and keep guns out of the hands of criminals and individuals deemed to be a danger to the public and themselves.

Lawmakers including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell, had expressed hope for an agreement by the end of the week.

Negotiators and aides said there was a chance of reaching an agreement in principle. But short of that, lawmakers would have a clearer sense of the scope for further discussions before leaving Washington on Thursday for the weekend.

"We'll have a much better idea tomorrow morning," Cornyn told reporters on Wednesday after a private meeting to discuss potential legislation. "We'll have a better idea of whether we still have momentum, which I believe we do right now."

Murphy told reporters that his aim was to pass legislation that can stem the tide of shooting deaths in America before the Senate breaks for the July 4 holiday at the end of the month. "We need to move expeditiously. But this would be a big, historic deal and we need to get it right. That's my priority," the Connecticut Democrat said.

The effort follows mass shootings in Buffalo, New York; Uvalde, Texas; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and elsewhere. nL1N2XU02P

Democrats including President Joe Biden have called for new limits on gun ownership, including a ban on semi-automatic, assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines, and for raising the minimum age to buy those weapons from 18 to 21.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives voted on Wednesday on a package of partisan gun legislation with no chance of clearing the Senate.

With the 100-seat Senate split 50-50, Republicans committed to protecting gun ownership rights, and gun legislation needing 60 votes for passage, negotiations are aimed at making relatively modest changes that lawmakers insist can still protect lives.

Talks on bolstering mental health assistance and incentivizing state "red flag" laws to keep guns from disturbed individuals have turned to the question of how to provide potentially billions of dollars in funding without increasing the federal deficit.

Lawmakers are also discussing provisions to enhance the physical security of schools, including more on-campus security officers, and proposals to add juvenile records to national background check databases.

(Reporting by David Morgan, editing by Ross Colvin and Cynthia Osterman)

((david.morgan@thomsonreuters.com; +1 (202) 898 8326; twitter.com/dmorganreuters; Reuters Messaging: david.morgan.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))