A bipartisan group of senators on Sunday announced a framework for federal gun control legislation, a remarkable breakthrough after years of stasis and obstruction on the part of Republican senators to pass any restrictions on gun ownership. Despite the bipartisan partnership, the framework is not yet formal legislation – and focuses primarily on mental health and school security interventions, rather than limiting access to firearms in any meaningful way.
The announcement comes after two horrific mass shootings: one at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, which killed 10 children, and the other at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, which killed 19 children. As the number of mass casualties continues to rise, the country has seen a renewed demand for a significant response at the federal level. March for Our Lives, the gun control activism group founded after the deadly shooting in Parkland, Florida in 2018, held a rally in Washington, DC on Saturdaycalling for congressional action after the recent shootings.
“The injustices we see every day are blatantly ignored by those on Capitol Hill. The cries of the nation’s children are heard all over the world, and you are choosing to turn a blind eye and turn a deaf ear to the lives that are being taken,” said Trevon Bosley, board member of March for our Lives, in a speech at Saturday’s rally, emphasizing the lack of political will to pass federal gun control laws, even in the wake of the Parkland shootings, which left 17 people dead. represent the pockets of whoever donates the most to your campaign,” Bosley said.
Parkland survivor X González echoed that sentiment in an interview with the Atlantic Ocean on their return to activism after the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings. “I absolutely blame the naysayers within Congress who are against passing gun laws for whatever reason,” they told interviewer Elaine Godfrey. “They somehow legitimately believe that having guns will make people safer, which… statistically proven years and years and years have mainly had a negative impact on children. Or they just don’t care.” In 2020, the last year for which data is available, 4,368 children aged 19 and under were killed by firearms in the US, causing firearms are the leading cause of death for this age group†
While the legislative framework introduced Sunday is nowhere near what activists and President Joe Biden are calling for, there is a sense that the announcement is a step in the right direction; as Gonzáles said in their Atlantic interview, “It’s definitely a start. We have to start somewhere.”
The framework has a strong focus on mental health and school interventions
Perhaps what’s most surprising about the framework is that it exists at all and is the product of a two-pronged group of lawmakers – Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), John Cornyn (R-TX), Thom Tillis (R-NC), are the lead negotiators on the framework, with a larger group including Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Chris Coons (D-DE), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) were also in talks.
The framework itself is heavy on mental health interventions, such as setting aside funding for mental health and school support services, as well as telehealth services for individuals and families in a mental health crisis. It also calls for a national expansion of mental health services for children and families.
Those measures reflect some of the right-wing discussion points that have historically emerged after mass shootings in the past — that guns are not responsible for gun deaths, but instead mental illness, the perceived lack of Christian influence in society, inadequate school security, and a host of other social ills are to blame†
While expanding access to and investment in mental health services is beneficial for whatever reason, mass shootings alone cannot stop it. Nor can the proposed extension of safety measures in schools; although the frame is thin on details, it proposes investing in “programs to help establish security measures in and around primary and secondary schools, support efforts to prevent violence in schools, and provide training to school staff and students. ” Theoretically, that could mean increasing the number of police officers in schools – which, as the report continues to showdid not prevent the shooting at Robb primary school in Uvalde, even when students called 911 from the school and parents tried to enter to help their children.
The framework also shows a strong focus on schools, although mass shootings can and do happen anywhere – including supermarkets, concerts and nightclubs. “It’s frustrating to see people only reach out and care about things when it happens in school and with kids,” González said in their statement. Atlantic interview. “They say, ‘This is especially horrific!’ “Well, it’s just as horrible when it happens in a synagogue. It’s just as horrible when it happens in a Walmart. It’s just as horrible when it happens to one person on the street. And it’s all Congress’s fault.”
How can we extract meaningful change from the legislative framework?
There is meaning in the proposal, as Ruben explained to cafemadrid. While legislation is still in the draft stage and it’s not at all clear whether the final bill could even make it through the deeply divided Senate, the aspects of the framework that does address firearms could be significant.
For example, some states have already issued state crisis intervention orders and, so far, “do not represent any Second Amendment issues,” Ruben said. “There are two lines of constitutional attack here. One would be the Second Amendment, the other the Due Process Clause,” he said, explaining that the crisis intervention orders, which allow a civil court to remove firearms or ammunition from people determined to be a danger to themselves or others. require an initial showing to get a temporary removal order, and then it only becomes final after a hearing, where the person requesting the firearms to be removed must demonstrate that the person poses a danger to themselves or others – and that person can challenge that effort in court during a hearing.” Expanding orders for crisis intervention could thus prove to be a meaningful, if incremental, step in arms control policy, and one that can withstand constitutional challenges.
Other elements of the framework, such as the closing of the so-called “boyfriend loophole”, according to Ruben, could also bring great victories. That loophole refers to the Lautenberg Amendment, which prohibits some domestic violence offenders — but not all abusive domestic partners — from possessing firearms. Extending that provision to abusive domestic and dating partners who are not husbands could make huge strides in preventing gun violence, especially violence against women. According to a 2020 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online“When women are murdered, they are more likely to be murdered by an intimate partner than anyone else.” Research suggests a strong correlation between firearms use and intimate partner violence. Better definitions of domestic violence perpetrators would certainly serve to curb gun-related murders of intimate partners.
“One thing will interest me, this extensive background check for gun buyers under the age of 21… I’m very curious to see what that looks like,” Ruben said. “The whole idea of the juvenile delinquency system is, these aren’t criminal proceedings, they find juveniles delinquent, we have a completely different jargon. But this one could be interesting, because in response to the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings, it was noticed that those young men were following the law. They legally bought the gun they bought, and they bought them when they were 18.” Extending the background check period for purchasers of weapons under the age of 21 would in fact provide sufficient time for the background checks as the current statute provides for a period of three days for background checks. If nothing is flagged in a buyer’s records within that time frame, even if the background check is incomplete, a dealer may complete the sale†
Despite the potential the framework holds, it’s still a matter of finding 10 Republican senators who can provide a filibuster-proof majority and pass the resulting legislation, which is no small feat. MAGA supporters in the House of Representatives are already mocking the framework, falsely claiming it undermines Second Amendment rights and calling the Republican lawmakers working on it RINOs.
The Senate also has limited time to draft and vote on the legislation before the July two-week recess — very little time, given the controversial nature of gun control legislation. But if it does happen, the House of Representatives – which already passed a broad arms control package earlier in the week — will probably make it through the Senatemarking real momentum to introduce legislation that will curb gun violence and save lives.