Democrats said Wednesday they are hopeful they can reach a bipartisan agreement on at least one gun violence measure as soon as early June, following the Tuesday massacre at a Texas elementary school.
Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both of Connecticut, said during a press conference that they had been in conversations with Senate Republicans about several measures, including a so-called red flag law, which Blumenthal and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have attempted to negotiate for years.
“My hope is that we’ll be able to deliver something to the American people that does the job or at least begins doing the job when the Senate reconvenes in a week and a half,” Murphy said.
With or without an agreement, Murphy and Blumenthal said Democrats, who control the Senate but hold only 50 of the 100 seats, intend to bring votes to the floor. That, Murphy said, would “show the American people where their members of the Senate stand so that they can then make educated decisions when they go to the polls.”
Red flag laws are designed to allow police or family members to apply for a court order temporarily removing firearms from a person who may be a danger to themselves or others. Connecticut was the first state to enact a red flag law in 1999 and it has been used thousands of times.
“We have a draft now that has won bipartisan support and addresses many of the objections that have been raised to it,” said Blumenthal, who conceded he has been optimistic about success in previous years.
When asked if such a statute might have prevented the Tuesday massacre of 20 schoolchildren and a teacher at an elementary school in Texas, Blumenthal said it was possible.
“There are indications that this shooter gave signs of mental distress, maybe derangement, other kinds of health care issues, mental health issues that perhaps were signs that should have been pursued, if there had been a red flag statute,” he said.
In the wake of the shooting in Texas and the massacre of 10 people at a grocery store in Buffalo earlier this month, senate Democrats are pushing for a variety of gun control legislation.
In addition to a red flag law, Democrats are seeking movement on increased background checks and stronger gun storage laws.
Murphy said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was intending a vote on the floor of the senate within two weeks, but that there were ongoing bipartisan negotiations.
“We are going to take the next 10 days and see if there is bipartisan agreement on red flags, bipartisan agreement on background checks, bipartisan agreement on security measures, but we’re not going to be in negotiations for months,” Murphy said. “I’ve been in touch throughout the day with a half-dozen to a dozen Republicans who want to be part of discussions over the next 10 days.”
Joining Blumenthal and Murphy in an online press conference late Wednesday were Kristin Song, whose 15-year-old son, Ethan, accidentally shot himself to death with an improperly stored gun in a friend’s house; also Nicole Hockley and Mark Barden, co-founders of Sandy Hook Promise, who both lost children in the 2012 Newtown shooting.
Separately from the Senate talks, a spokesman for Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, confirmed Wednesday that “Ethan’s Law,” which passed in Connecticut, is close to having enough votes to pass in the U.S. House.
Blumenthal said he and Graham had “put literally hours, days, months of work into the various elements of this red flag statute proposal.”
Though he declined to say if red flags, background checks or safe storage legislation was more likely to pass, Blumenthal said the red flag law proposal was more palatable to Republicans because it contains strong due process provisions.
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