A bipartisan group of US senators have reached a tentative deal on gun-control measures in the wake of a string of deadly mass shootings which, though modest, would amount to the most substantial new restrictions in decades if enacted.
The nascent agreement, announced on Sunday and endorsed by 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats, includes funding intended to motivate more states to enact so-called “red flag” laws that would authorise police to petition a court to bar certain individuals from possessing or purchasing a firearm.
It also tightens background checks and, for the first time, mandates a search of juvenile justice records for buyers under the age of 21, in addition to prohibiting those convicted of domestic violence against partners from owning guns.
Lawmakers are also seeking to expand mental health services nationwide and ramp up funding to bolster school security.
The proposed framework stops short of many of the more stringent measures supported by the Biden administration, including raising from 18 to 21 the minimum age to buy certain firearms.
The president has also called for the reinstatement of the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, which was allowed to expire during the presidency of George W Bush after being introduced in 1994 under Bill Clinton.
“Obviously, it does not do everything that I think is needed, but it reflects important steps in the right direction, and would be the most significant gun safety legislation to pass Congress in decades,” Joe Biden said in a statement on Sunday. “Each day that passes, more children are killed in this country: the sooner it comes to my desk, the sooner I can sign it, and the sooner we can use these measures to save lives.”
Democratic senators Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and Republicans John Cornyn of Texas and North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, spearheaded the efforts. Biden said bipartisan support should mean it moves quickly through the Senate and the House of Representatives.
“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 group of senators said in a statement.
The announcement comes just weeks after a massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, which resulted in the death of 19 children and two teachers at the hands of an 18-year-old armed with an assault rifle. Roughly one week earlier, another teenager shot and killed 10 people in a grocery store in a largely Black neighbourhood in Buffalo, New York state’s second-largest city. Multiple mass shootings have occurred in the aftermath of those attacks.
Thousands of Americans marched in Washington and in cities across the country this weekend in support of stronger gun-control laws.
The bipartisan package is just an agreement in principle and not yet a legislative text, meaning a potentially difficult negotiation process ahead.