by IANS |
New York, June 18 (IANS) The Bipartisan Gun Law being negotiated in the Congress appears to have hit bumps already with majority of the American citizens and pro-gun lobby Republicans unwilling to back it unless they know what is actually in the bill.
This is despite the fact that Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, Republican from Kentucky, supports the laws in principle.
Speaking at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday in favour of the new gun violence legislation, health and law experts, law enforcement personnel, and a parent of a school shooting victim spoke strongly for the law, but also opined that a bipartisan deal being negotiated in the Congress doesn't go far enough, said USA Today in a special dispatch.
Pro-gun Republican lawmakers said they won't back the "framework" being discussed until they see what the actual bill says despite a strong in-principle backing from Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell.
Even as details for the framework legislation are being straightened out, the Senate hearing on Wednesday gave an idea of what the stakeholders and Senators expect beyond the broad proposal amid their reservations.
"This framework doesn't include everything I want, but it's made up of reforms that Americans overwhelmingly support," said Illinois Democrat Senator Dick Durbin, who chairs the committee.
Broad support for mental health, early intervention and community support are included in the bipartisan framework deal besides support for state crisis intervention, investment in children and family mental health services and penalties for straw purchasing.
The new laws cover protections for domestic violence victims, clarification on the definition of a federally licensed firearms dealer and funding for school safety resources and school-based mental health services, said ys the USA Today report.
An "enhanced review process" for gun buyers under 21 years of age would include an investigative period to review juvenile and mental health records, including checks with state databases and local law enforcement agencies. It would not ban assault-style weapons, prohibit high-capacity magazines, or raise the age from 18 to 21 to buy a semi-automatic rifle.
People are not happy with this framework because it is vastly different from the New York state legislature 10-pack law that prohibits sale of semi-automatics to youth under 21 years, and insists on strict background checks on gun salesmen and buyers.
In Wednesday's hearing, the Senators were divided on how much the new legislation should focus on mental health services versus stricter gun control.
Mora Szilagyi, a pediatrician and president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said it will take "a multipronged approach", as an issue as complex and pervasive as gun violence doesn't have simple solutions.
Szilagyi quoted a recent study that revealed all school shooters had a significant amount of childhood trauma. She was of the opinion that addressing them early on with a network of school-based, community-based, and primary care-based centres would help identify signs of trouble before a situation worsens.
Several Senators and witnesses focused on red flag laws, which allow courts to confiscate firearms from those deemed a danger to themselves or others.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat from Connecticut, spoke in favour of expanding these extreme risk protection orders which he and Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican, Syracuse, has introduced in the bipartisan framework.
What is bipartisan gun law legislation and how did it originate?
A bipartisan group of Senators unveiled an agreement in principle for gun safety legislation recently with an overview of a reform package to redress the nation's most pressing and divisive issue in the wake of mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas.
CNN TV News Network said one of the biggest hurdles to be sorted out is how exactly the framework legislation is going to be worded and written as a legal document. The announcement includes the support of 10 Republican Senators, which would give the proposal enough support to overcome the Senate filibuster -- but maintaining it through the legislative process will be a big challenge for the lawmakers to overcome before the next Congressional recess in two weeks.
Democrats are yet pursuing an ambitious goal: Draft the bill and keep Republicans on board before the next recess, close aides told CNN. Many of the details in the plan are still unsettled. ere is what the lawmakers included in the framework and what they left out:
Reforms included in the agreement
'Red flag' laws
A significant piece of the framework legislation is helping states create and implement the so-called red flag laws that keep guns off the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves or others. This legislation would provide significant funding to help states create new red flag laws, but the 19 states -- and Washington -- that already have these laws on the books would also be eligible for funding to improve the effectiveness of their established programs.
Mental health and telehealth investment
The proposal also includes "major investments to increase access to mental health and suicide prevention programmes; and other support services available in the community, including crisis and trauma intervention and recovery".
Closing the so-called boyfriend loophole
The senators said the legislation will address the so-called boyfriend loophole, which deals with whether unmarried partners could keep guns if they were found guilty of violence against a dating partner, according to the CNN report.
Early this year, the Senate negotiators involved in Violence Against Women Act dropped the provision under pressure from the gun lobbyist in the Congress, the National Rifle Association. This has dealt a huge blow to Democrats. However, its inclusion in this framework shows 10 Republicans are willing to override the largest gun lobby on an issue where they had maintained a long-stated position.
Enhanced review process for buyers under 21
A very competent due diligence process is being put in place in the new framework legislation for a more thorough review process for people between ages 18 and 21 buying a gun like an AR-15. Under a background check review, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System would have to also contact state and local law enforcement agencies to search for any disqualifying mental health or juvenile records, according to the Democratic aide.
Clarifying the definition of a Federally Licensed Firearm Dealer
How to define this is under debate. Because firearm sellers, proven to be "engaged in the business of selling firearms", need to be put on notice that they need to register to become Federally Licensed Firearm Dealers. It's significant because it means those dealers have to conduct background checks under federal law.
School security resources
The legislation would address an area Republicans have focused on in recent weeks: school security. The lawmakers said in their release that the proposal provides money "to help institute safety measures in and around primary and secondary schools", while also supporting "school violence prevention efforts" and training for school employees and students.
What have the lawmakers left out
Expanded background checks
The framework legislation does not include a provision to enhance background checks for all firearm sales or transfers in the country. Currently, background checks are not required for gun sales and transfers by unlicensed and private sellers. Democrats have been supporting such a requirement for a long time.
Last year, the House passed gun legislation that would expand background checks on all commercial gun sales, making it the first Congressional move on significant gun control as Democrats won the White House and the majority in both chambers of Congress.
Assault weapons ban
Also left out is a federal ban on military-style assault weapons, another measure Democrats have been pushing for in recent years, citing mass shootings that have involved such weapons.
Higher minimum age of purchase
Additionally, the agreement doesn't include a change to the age at which a person can purchase an assault-style weapon. Democrats, including West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, the chamber's most conservative Democrat, have said the age to purchase assault weapons must be raised from 18 to 21.
The New York legislators have done this in their 10-pack legislation on gun control. Witnesses and Senators advocate for more new details to the framework.
Senators and witnesses at Wednesday's hearing also pushed for the inclusion of safe storage of firearms -- also known as Ethan's Law -- that would require an unloaded or loaded gun to be properly stored so children cannot access them.
The proposal is not part of the bipartisan framework. Phoenix police chief Williams told the committee that Ethan's Law "could save thousands of lives" and that the MCCA agrees that safe storage is vital for preventing accidental violence and suicide among children.
Senator Cory Booker, Democrat from New Jersey, spoke about modifying Breaking the Cycle of Violence Act, to provide federal grants to communities for violence intervention and prevention programmes. Booker cited the success of similar programmes in Massachusetts and Oakland, California, according to USA Today.
Senator Cornyn on bipartisan gun proposal
Senator John Cornyn, Republican from Texas, addressed other things needed within the legislation and said that negotiations are ongoing. He said he and his colleagues need to work together so that they can vote on the bill the following week.