The Associated Press reports the proposal falls far short of tougher steps long sought by President Joe Biden and many Democrats. Even so, the accord was embraced by Biden and enactment would signal a significant turnabout after years of gun massacres that have yielded little but stalemate in Congress.
Leaders hope to push any agreement into law rapidly — they hope this month — before the political momentum fades that has been stirred by the recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas.
Participants cautioned that final details and legislative language remain to be completed, meaning fresh disputes and delays might emerge.
In a consequential development, 20 senators, including 10 Republicans, released a statement calling for passage. That is potentially crucial because the biggest obstacle to enacting the measure is probably in the 50-50 Senate, where at least 10 GOP votes will be needed to attain the usual 60-vote threshold for approval.
The compromise would make the juvenile records of gun buyers under age 21 available when they undergo background checks. The suspects who killed 10 Black people at a grocery store in Buffalo and 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde were both 18, and many perpetrators of recent years’ mass shootings have been young.
The agreement would offer money to states to enact and put in place “red flag” laws that make it easier to temporarily take guns from people considered potentially violent, plus funds to bolster school safety and mental health programs.
Some people who informally sell guns for profit would be required to obtain federal dealers’ licenses, which means they would have to conduct background checks of buyers. Convicted domestic abusers who do not live with a former partner, such as estranged ex-boyfriends, would be barred from buying firearms, and it would be a crime for a person to legally purchase a weapon for someone who would not qualify for ownership.
Congressional aides said billions of dollars would be spent expanding the number of community mental health centers and suicide prevention programs. But they said some spending decisions are unresolved, as are final wording on juvenile records and other gun provisions that might prove contentious.
The agreement was quickly endorsed by groups that support gun restrictions including Brady, Everytown for Gun Safety and March for Our Lives, which organized rallies held around the country on Saturday.
The National Rifle Association said in a statement that it opposes gun control and infringing on people’s “fundamental right to protect themselves and their loved ones,” but supports strengthening school security, mental health and law enforcement. The group has long exerted its sway with millions of firearms-owning voters to derail gun control drives in Congress.
The agreement represents a lowest common denominator compromise on gun violence. Lawmakers have demonstrated a newfound desire to move ahead after saying their constituents have shown a heightened desire for congressional action since Buffalo and Uvalde, but Republicans still oppose more sweeping steps that Democrats want and Sunday’s agreement omits.
These include banning assault-style firearms such as the AR-15 style rifles used in Buffalo and Uvalde, or raising the legal age for buying them.
Democrats have also wanted to ban high capacity magazines and to expand required background checks to far more gun purchases. None of those proposals has a chance in Congress.
The last major firearms restrictions enacted by lawmakers was the 1994 assault weapons ban, which Congress let expire 10 years later.