Key senators want gun overhaul bill written this week

Blumenthal warns ‘sense of urgency’ to act could fade

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks during a rally with gun safety advocates on June 8. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks during a rally with gun safety advocates on June 8. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted June 13, 2022 at 4:10pm

Legislative text for a bipartisan agreement to overhaul gun laws will need to be drafted this week if there is any chance of passage before the July Fourth recess, key senators said Monday.

"I will say it will be difficult to get this all written and passed and to the president's desk in the next two weeks, but we are ... drafting the bill as we speak, and are going to be working to try to get this done by the end of next week," Connecticut Democratic Sen. Christopher S. Murphy said Monday.

Murphy appeared with fellow Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal and advocates for enhancing gun safety laws at the state capitol complex in Hartford. Both senators were involved in the discussions that led to Sunday's framework.

Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., has already promised to prioritize the measure once the text is ready. The agreement has the formal backing of 10 Republicans and 10 Democratic caucus members.

Speaking Monday on the Senate floor, Schumer praised the framework released Sunday, saying there is “a lot of work left to do before we actually pass a bill.”

He said he will put the bill on the floor “as soon as possible” once text is finalized.

"We're going to allow the negotiators to go through that process" of writing the text, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday. Of President Joe Biden, she said: "He wants to see Congress act. He wants to see this on his desk as quickly as possible."

Jean-Pierre said that the conversations between the president's team and the negotiators on Capitol Hill would continue.

Blumenthal noted that much of his schedule this week will be occupied with closed Armed Services panel markups for the fiscal 2023 defense authorization.

"I'm going to be stepping out whenever I can to be working hands on, on this measure," Blumenthal said, adding that he believed a timeline of action ahead of the next recess would be "doable."

‘These moments wane’

"We need to take advantage of the sense of urgency that people feel right now," Blumenthal said. "And we know from history that these moments wane and fade."

Among other provisions, the framework would provide federal funding incentives for states to implement red flag laws to allow for courts to direct removal of firearms from people determined to be of significant risk to themselves and others. The proposal also seeks to clarify when people selling guns need to be federally licensed dealers.

It also would establish a new federal law to address the trafficking of firearms for sale between states.

"I've talked to many legal experts who say this might be the most important piece of our compromise bill, because finally we're going to have federal tools to go after the traffickers who buy all their weapons in South Carolina or Georgia, and bring them up to Hartford and sell them on the streets of this city," Murphy said. "We finally have a tool to go after the gun traffickers who are flooding our cities with weapons."

Murphy also highlighted the enhanced background checks and pauses prior to purchase that would be set up for people under age 21 trying to buy guns.

The two senators highlighted the major components of the agreement, and noted that some provisions have not yet received as much attention, like billions in new mental health spending.

"I mean, we haven't put any numbers out yet ... but it's safe to say we are talking about billions of dollars in mental health spending," said Murphy, a member of the Appropriations Committee. "That is going to make an enormous difference, and much of that money will be targeted to schools and to underserved communities."

Mark Burnett contributed to this report.