Senate bargainers reached agreement Tuesday on a bipartisan gun violence bill, potentially teeing up final passage by week's end on an incremental but landmark package that would stand as Congress’ response to mass shootings in Texas and New York that shook the nation. Lawmakers released the 80-page bill nine days after agreeing to a framework for the plan and 29 years after Congress last enacted major firearms curbs. It cleared an initial procedural hurdle by 64-34, with 14 Republicans joining all 48 Democrats and two allied independents in voting yes, the AP reports. That strongly supported a prediction by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, of approval later this week. Passage by the Democratic-led House could follow quickly.
Though Republicans blocked tougher restrictions sought by Democrats, the accord marks an election-year breakthrough on an issue that pits the GOP's staunch gun-owning and rural voters against Democrats' urban-centered backers of firearms curbs. That makes it one of the most incendiary culture war battlefields in politics and a sensitive vote for some lawmakers, particularly Republicans who might alienate Second Amendment stalwarts. The legislation would toughen background checks for the youngest firearms buyers, require more sellers to conduct background checks and beef up penalties on gun traffickers. It also would disburse money to states and communities to improve school safety and mental health initiatives. Aides estimated the measure would cost around $15 billion, which Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, the lead Democratic bargainer, said would be fully paid for.
In a positive sign about its fate, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., voiced his support, calling it “a commonsense package of popular steps that will help make these horrifying incidents less likely while fully upholding the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.” The National Rifle Association, which has spent decades derailing gun control legislation, expressed opposition. “It falls short at every level. It does little to truly address violent crime while opening the door to unnecessary burdens on the exercise of Second Amendment freedom by law-abiding gun owners," the gun lobby group said. It seemed likely a majority of Republicans—especially in the House—would oppose the legislation. (Many more details here.)