Text of the legislation has not been released, but the announcement states that the proposal will include measures related to state and tribal red flag laws, background checks for gun buyers under 21 years old, and funding for a variety of “mental health” services.
“Today, we are announcing a commonsense, bipartisan proposal to protect America’s children, keep our schools safe, and reduce the threat of violence across our country,” said the 20 senators in the press release. “Families are scared, and it is our duty to come together and get something done that will help restore their sense of safety and security in their communities.”
Cornyn led negotiations with Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT). The pair has often been a pivotal duo in gun-related measures.
Last year, Cornyn was in talks with Murphy about potential legislation to reform or expand background checks for gun purchases, but those negotiations reportedly reached an end in June 2021.
The two previously worked out the deal that became the Fix NICS Act.
For the new measure, Cornyn and Murphy were joined by Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) in leading negotiations.
According to the announcement, one of the top items in the deal is to provide “resources to states and tribes to create and administer laws that help ensure deadly weapons are kept out of the hands of individuals whom a court has determined to be a significant danger to themselves or others, consistent with state and federal due process and constitutional protections.”
Commonly referred to as “red flag” laws, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill on Friday that would implement a federal variation of the measure to implement a system for courts to approve the confiscation of weapons from an individual “who poses a risk to themselves or others.”
The measure passed largely along partisan lines, with only five Republicans — and none from Texas — voting in favor of the bill.
Rather than implement a federal red flag law, Cornyn’s compromise appears to attach funding incentives to similar measures at the state level.
Besides red flag laws, the announcement also stated that the compromise would include creating an “enhanced review process” for gun buyers under the age of 21.
Supplementing the standard approval through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), such purchases would require “an investigative period to review juvenile and mental health records, including checks with state databases and local law enforcement.”
The proposal also aims to raise the standards to pass a NICS check to exclude “domestic violence abusers and individuals subject to domestic violence restraining orders [. . .] who have or have had a continuing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.”
Other gun-related measures mentioned in the announcement include cracking down on criminals who “evade licensing requirements,” “straw purchase,” and “traffic guns.”
A number of other provisions in the agreement focus on the subject of mental health.
Taxpayer funds — at an amount not yet known — would be used to support:
- A “national expansion of community behavioral health center model.”
- “Access to mental health and suicide prevention programs.”
- “Programs to expand mental health and supportive services in schools, including: early identification and intervention programs and school based mental health and wrap-around services.”
- “Programs to help institute safety measures in and around primary and secondary schools, support school violence prevention efforts and provide training to school personnel and students.”
- “Programs that increase access to mental and behavioral health services for youth and families in crisis via telehealth.”
“Our plan increases needed mental health resources, improves school safety and support for students, and helps ensure dangerous criminals and those who are adjudicated as mentally ill can’t purchase weapons,” said the senators. “Most importantly, our plan saves lives while also protecting the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans. We look forward to earning broad, bipartisan support and passing our commonsense proposal into law.”
In addition to the standalone red flag measure, the U.S. House approved broader gun legislation last week, with only a handful of Republicans supporting all of its provisions.
One provision of the legislation that received support from a number of Republicans was a requirement for the Department of justice to report on “the demographic data of persons” who fail a NICS check.
All Democrats and 160 Republicans voted in support of that policy, including nine Texans: Reps. John Carter (R-TX-31), Michael Cloud (R-TX-27), Dan Crenshaw (R-TX-02), Pat Fallon (R-TX-04), Tony Gonzales (R-TX-23), Kay Granger (R-TX-12), Pete Sessions (R-TX-17), Van Taylor (R-TX-03), and Beth Van Duyne (R-TX-24).
With a narrowly split Senate, the House-approved legislation has a slim chance of being signed into law.
However, once the text is finalized, the negotiated deal from Cornyn could soon make its way to the president’s desk.
In order to end debate on the legislation in the Senate, the bill would need 60 votes. With 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats announcing the agreement, the legislation is poised for approval.
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Daniel Friend is the Marketing and Media Manager for The Texan. After graduating with a double-major in Political Science and Humanities, he wrote for The Texan as a reporter through June 2022. In his spare time, you're likely to find him working on The Testimony of Calvin Lewis, an Abolition of Man-inspired novel and theatrical podcast.