On Sunday, 20 U.S. senators, including Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), announced they arrived at a proposal containing gun control and other measures they believe will curb violence in America.
The emerging legislation comes as pressure mounts on lawmakers to act in response to mass shootings like the recent ones in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas.
“Today, we are announcing a commonsense, bipartisan proposal to protect America’s children, keep our schools safe and reduce the threat of violence across our country,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement. “Families are scared, and it is our duty to come together and get something done that will help restore their sense of safety and security in their communities … . Our plan saves lives while also protecting the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans.”
The proposal would entail a more stringent review process for all gun buyers under the age of 21 to guarantee they have no criminal backgrounds or major mental health issues. The measure also fine-tunes the definition of “federally licensed firearms dealer” to ensure that sellers adhere to licensing rules.
One component of the proposal that’s sure to be controversial is funding to implement “red flag” laws that freeze an individual’s ability to possess a gun based on a court’s determination that the person poses a danger to himself or to others. Such rulings come after family members or other close contacts file petitions stating what behaviors suggest a gun owner is a safety risk. Portman maintains that these laws’ constraints upon gun owners are “consistent with state and federal due process and constitutional protections.”
The National Rifle Association (NRA), America’s largest gun-rights organization, posted a statement on Twitter Sunday suggesting it would not support any legislation with substantial anti-gun provisions but added that it would not voice either backing or opposition to a measure that remains in the works.
“As is our policy, the NRA does not take positions on ‘frameworks,’” the NRA tweeted. “We will make our position known when the full text of the bill is available for review. NRA will continue to oppose any effort to insert gun control policies, initiatives that override constitutional due process protections & efforts to deprive law-abiding citizens of their fundamental right to protect themselves/loved ones into this or any other legislation.”
Other elements of the tentative Senate deal include increased funding for mental health and school safety programs, addition of individuals’ domestic violence history to the national background check system, and penalties for straw firearms purchases.
Other parties to the agreement include Chris Murphy (D-CT), John Cornyn (R-TX), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Cory Booker (D- NJ), Richard Burr (R-NC), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Chris Coons (D-DE), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Angus King (I-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Pat Toomey (R-PA).
An even more contentious bill that would raise the age limit for buying a semiautomatic weapon – from 18 to 21 – passed the U.S. House of Representatives last week. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH-18) was among the five Republicans who voted with the House Democratic majority in favor of the legislation.
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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Ohio Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Rob Portman” by U.S. Senate Photography. Background Photo “Guns” by Thayne Tuason. CC BY-SA 4.0.