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McConnell announces support for bipartisan gun reform framework

Senators push ahead on gun reform
Senators push ahead on bipartisan gun reform legislation 05:42

Washington — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday he supports the framework agreement for a gun reform plan announced by a bipartisan group of senators over the weekend.

"For myself, I'm comfortable with the framework and if the legislation ends up reflecting what the framework indicates, I'll be supportive," he said during a press conference Tuesday.

A group of 20 senators, led by Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, announced Sunday they reached consensus on the key priorities of a deal to reform the nation's gun laws. The senators set to work on finding common ground on legislative solutions to curbing gun violence in the wake of the mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas.

Negotiators are still working to finalize legislative text, but 10 GOP senators signed on to the framework, ensuring it could overcome a filibuster if all 50 Democrats back the plan and the Republicans maintain their support. McConnell's backing is a crucial win for the Republicans pushing for the proposal to be the most significant update to the nation's gun laws in nearly three decades.

The agreement would provide incentives for states to pass so-called "red flag" laws, boost mental health resources, provide funding for school safety resources, clarify the definition of a federally licensed firearms dealer and crack down on criminals who illegally straw purchase and traffic guns.

It would also expand background checks for firearms buyers under 21, by requiring an investigative period to review juvenile and mental health records. Convicted domestic violence abusers and people subject to domestic violence restraining orders would also now be included in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, closing what is called the "boyfriend loophole."

The plan does not go as far as a package of bills that passed the House last week and stops short of President Biden's own proposals to strengthen gun laws. The president has pushed Congress to reinstate the federal ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, or raise the minimum purchasing age for semi-automatic weapons from 18 to 21, but it was unlikely those proposals would win support from enough Republicans to progress in the 50-50 Senate.

Senate negotiators instead worked to reach consensus on a more tailored plan that would overcome the 60-vote threshold for legislation to advance. Both the president and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have said they support the framework.

While McConnell would not weigh in on raising the age to buy semi-automatic weapons, he said enhanced background checks for gun buyers under 21 is a "step in the right direction."

"I think if this framework becomes the actual piece of legislation, it's a step forward, a step forward on a bipartisan basis, and further demonstrates to the American people that we can come together, which we have done from time to time on things like infrastructure and postal reform, to make progress for the country," he said.

McConnell later reiterated that if the framework leads to comparable legislation, he intends to support it.

Cornyn on Tuesday said he hopes negotiators will finish their work on the legislative text later this week and is "laser-focused on drafting text that reflects the common-sense, targeted proposal that we've agreed to in principle." 

Schumer has pledged to bring the measure to the Senate floor once the bill text is completed.

"I urge my colleagues to think of all the lives we can save now by turning this framework into law," he said Monday on the Senate floor. "Americans have waited long enough for us to take action. Too many lives have been already lost. Too many families have been left grieving. While we can't undo the tragedies of the past, we can act now to make them less likely in the future."

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