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Saturday, July 2, 2022

US: Loose ends and surprises in arms deal

WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) — The draft of a bipartisan agreement in the U.S. Senate to curb gun violence does not include sweeping change measures that ban the deadliest guns, but it does propose a series of provisions that make it harder for some gun buyers to buy guns. young people and people considered a threat may have them.

And there are significant proposals to address mental health and school safety issues. All of this reflects the pressure both parties are feeling in an election year to act after mass shootings in May that left 10 dead in Buffalo, New York, and 21 more in Uvalde, Texas.

Details of the plan are still under negotiation between Democrats and Republicans, with disagreements over how rigorous the initiatives should be. This means the strength of the proposal — and which parts will survive — remain unclear as it translates into law.

Here’s what’s in and out of the deal:

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STRENGTHENING, ALTHOUGH LIMITED, BACKGROUND CHECKS

When a person between the ages of 18 and 20 attempts to purchase firearms, the required federal background check will first include juvenile and mental health records. To give state and local authorities time to gather the information, the current maximum deadline of three days would be extended to an additional seven days, according to advisers with knowledge of the talks. After the 10 days are up, the buyer could get the gun even though the background search is incomplete.

Currently, those who sell firearms are required to obtain federal licenses for their firearms and must undergo background checks. Negotiators want the rule to cover more people who, without having a formal business, occasionally sell weapons.

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OTHER RESTRICTIONS

The plan includes grants to help states enforce or enact “red flag” laws that allow authorities to obtain court orders to temporarily remove guns from people deemed dangerous. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia already have such statutes, but some lack the funds to enforce them rigorously.

On the other hand, the penalties for figureheads will be toughened, that is, those who buy weapons for others who do not meet the requirements. The acquisition of weapons will be prohibited to a greater number of romantic partners or ex-partners convicted of domestic abuse, or for whom their victims have requested a restraining order. Now, this applies if the couple was married, lived together, or had children together.

The inclusion of tougher restrictions against figureheads and estranged couples came as a surprise as Republicans had previously blocked them.

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ADDRESSING WIDER PROBLEMS

According to Democrats, there will be billions of dollars to expand mental health initiatives. It would fund more community mental health centers, strengthen suicide prevention and violence intervention programs, and increase access to remote mental health consultations.

School safety would receive more funding, which could include increased security at building entrances, staff training and violence prevention programs. The amount was not clear.

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OBSTACLES AHEAD

Democrats whose constituents are clearly in favor of gun restrictions want the new law to be as strict as possible. Republicans don’t want anything to turn their voters, who are ardent supporters of guns, against them.

This translates into tough negotiations over the fine print of the legislation.

How strict will the new definition be of which dealers need federal firearms licenses? Will there be limits on which records of minors could be consulted during background checks on younger buyers?

What requirements would states have to meet to be eligible for “red flag” funds? What legal protections would people have if authorities deemed them too dangerous to own firearms?

How much money will this initiative cost? No one has said, but people familiar with the discussions say it could be around $15 billion. And how will it be paid?

One of the bill’s proponents, Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy from Connecticut, told reporters Monday that negotiators plan to pay the cost through spending cuts or new revenue. The latter could be a hurdle for Republicans.

The package is expected to be drafted and approved before Congress begins its July 4 recess.

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WHAT IS LEFT OUT?

President Joe Biden has proposed reviving the 1994 assault weapons ban, which expired after a decade, or raising the minimum age of purchase from 18 to 21. He wants to ban high-capacity chargers.

The president would also revoke the legal immunity that protects weapons manufacturers. In addition, he calls for secure storage requirements and a federal “red flag” law that covers states that lack it.

None of these measures were included in the bill, nor was universal background checks. Biden supports the initiative anyway in the name of a compromise that would produce results.

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WHAT WILL HAPPEN?

Ten senators from each party came together to announce the proposal and their endorsement. Those figures are not a coincidence.

They indicate potentially enough support for passage in the Senate, where Democrats need at least 10 votes from the GOP to reach the usual 60-vote threshold.

In addition to Murphy, the other top negotiators were Senators John Cornyn, R-Texas; Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona, and Thom Tillis, a Republican from North Carolina.

Its approval in the House of Representatives, where the Democrats have a majority, is taken for granted, although complications could always arise.

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MORE RESTRICTIONS?

Another negotiator, Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, said he hopes Republicans will see that “the gun lobby is weaker than they think.” But there are signs that passing future restrictions will be challenging.

This series of measures is the most important in Congress since the expired ban on assault weapons was enacted three decades ago. This highlights how durable established positions can be.

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Associated Press reporter Susan Haigh in Hartford, Connecticut, contributed to this report.

World Nation News Desk
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