Sen. Chris Murphy said that a gun, mental health, and school safety bill backed by a group of 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats would likely come to a vote by July 4.
Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who led negotiations with GOP colleague Sen. John Cornyn, told CNN that the “heavy lifting” has been completed. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was not among the 10 Republicans involved in negotiations, signaled his tentative support for the legislation.
“We've negotiated the framework,” Murphy said. “We should be able to get that framework into legislative text. If we do, I'll be very pleased to earn Sen. McConnell's support. I think that indicates we'll get well north of 60 votes necessary to pass this bill. I think the reason we're picking up republican votes right now is because what we include in this bill is wildly popular."
The legislation will include the following:
- Funds for states to implement red flag laws
- Family mental health spending
- Getting rid of the so-called “boyfriend loophole” by including those convicted of domestic abuse in background checks
- Funding for school-based mental health programs
- Funding for school safety resources
- Clarifying the language of a federally licensed firearm dealer
- Investments in telehealth programs
- Implementing a waiting period on gun purchases for those under age 21
- Penalties for straw purchases of firearms
Despite the optimistic announcement, Republicans’ support behind the bill appears tentative. Cornyn indicated that there are still some elements that need to be finalized.
“I'm starting to get a little concerned, though, that there are a couple of issues that need to be settled before we can reach an agreement,” he told CNN on Wednesday.
Namely, Cornyn wants funds available for states that do not have red flag laws but offer other programs such as mental health courts. He also said the provision barring those with domestic violence convictions from passing a background check needs to be better defined.
‘The other issue has to do with the way that nontraditional relationships are handled in terms of domestic violence and misdemeanors. We got to come up with a good definition of what that actually means,” he said.
While mental health has become a key component of gun control talks, mental health experts have advised the public not to associate mass shootings with mental health issues automatically.
"Attempts to connect mental illness to mass shootings are a distraction that inflicts enormous damage by taking attention from solutions that could actually prevent such events," a group of mental health organizations wrote. "This perpetuates a false narrative that encourages stigmatization of and discrimination against the millions of Americans living with mental health conditions who are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it."
"Our organizations welcome continued bipartisan efforts to improve our country’s mental health and substance use systems," the organizations added. "These should be pursued because they will enhance our collective well-being, improve and save countless lives, and lead to a more vibrant and resilient country. However, what these reforms alone will not do is address the epidemic of mass shootings. To prevent more carnage, policymakers must act now to address the national crisis of gun violence and work on a bipartisan basis to pass meaningful solutions that promote gun safety in all of our communities."