Senators reaching critical point on gun legislation talks

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Negotiations on Capitol Hill are reaching a critical point, as top Republican and Democratic senators stake out common ground on legislation that could reduce future mass shootings. 

One of the negotiators, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, told reporters Tuesday discussions are “entering a pretty critical stage,” and his “goal is to get an agreement by the end of the week.” Murphy met with President Biden at the White House Tuesday, but declined to go into detail about the meeting. 

Unlike previous attempts to find common ground on gun legislation, Murphy, whose state of Connecticut suffered the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, said Republicans are increasingly open to their efforts. That is because, Murphy said, families are lighting up members’ phones like never before. 

“I’ve failed so many times before in these talks that I”m sober-minded about our chances,” Murphy said Tuesday on ABC’s “The View.” “But normally, as time goes on, after one of these cataclysmic mass shootings, the momentum fades. The opposite seems to be happening this time. There are more Republicans every single day who want to help us get to a product and so, I am deeply hopeful that perhaps by the end of this week, we can announce a framework that will allow us to take votes.”

He did not specify what would be in the framework of legislation to address gun violence and mass shootings and only mentioned areas topics being discussed in the broadest terms.

“I don’t think that we can stand by and let our politics stop us from finding a compromise,” Murphy said. “So we’re talking about some common-sense changes to our gun laws that will save lives. Some significant funding for mental health.”

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said Tuesday that the bipartisan group working on crafting a package is “making progress on three or four fronts.” 

GOP Senator John Cornyn, a lead Republican negotiator, said building consensus takes time, and suggested that there is agreement around mental health funding and criminal background records.  

“I think focusing on concerns about mental health and on people with criminal background records is an obvious area where I think we can work together,” Cornyn said. 

Republican Senator Thom Tillis, another member of a bipartisan negotiating group, echoed Cornyn’s sentiments. 

“Right now, we are trying to work on things where we have agreement,” he said. “We got to get 60 votes. Hopefully we get 75 votes on this.”  

Other potential areas of compromise include school safety measures and red flag laws

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who both negotiated a background checks compromise bill in 2013 that failed, said Tuesday that senators are discussing strengthening the the background-check system. 

“We’re talking about so many different variations of it,” Manchin said. 

“There have been a lot of discussions about various ways that you could capture the flaws and — fix the flaws I should say — in our current background check system. Manchin-Toomey is one way to do it,” Toomey said of the bill he sponsored with Manchin. “There could be other ways.” 

Senate Minority Whip John Thune explained that the negotiations are occurring in “good faith” to craft a comprehensive package.

Cornyn said Monday on the Senate floor that the group is not talking about “banning a category of weapons across the board,” and Thune defended Americans buying AR-15s. 

“They are a sporting rifle,” Thune said. “And it’s something that a lot of people for purposes of going out target shooting. In my state, they use them to shoot prairie dogs and you know, other types of varmints.”

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