Hopes fade for quick gun deal as bipartisan negotiations grind on in Senate


Hopes are fading in Washington that a quick deal on guns will materialize this week, with lawmakers struggling to fashion a deal acceptable to all sides.

Despite the negotiations entering their second week, a bipartisan group of senators at the center of the talks is no closer to a deal.

“The general feeling I took away … [is] it’s clearly a work in progress,” said Sen. John Kennedy, Louisiana Republican, after being briefed on the negotiations. “It may not even be ready next week.”

Most of the progress to date has been on finding agreement on what will have to be excluded from a deal, rather than what will be included.

Democrats, for instance, have abandoned calls for a ban on military-style assault weapons to be included in the package. Republicans, meanwhile, have conceded that the background check process for gun purchases needs to be enhanced.

That’s left lawmakers eyeing more money for school security, incentives for states to adopt “red flag” laws, and expanding the background check system to include youth felony records.

SEE ALSO: Senate leaders give bipartisan group more time to craft a gun deal

It remains to be seen whether that will be enough. Assuming Democratic unanimity, which is not assured if the final proposal does too little from their point of view, the deal needs the support of at least 10 Republicans in the evenly split Senate to become law.

“We continue to make progress on narrowing and refining the scope of the package,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who is leading the negotiations for his party. “Every day we get closer to an agreement, not further away.”

Senate leaders are encouraging the deliberations by giving the bipartisan group time and space to iron out a deal.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, has publicly encouraged the talks, saying that “real progress is very important” when it comes to combating gun violence.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has followed a similar course.

The Kentucky Republican has allowed a top lieutenant, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, to take part in the negotiations, while another, Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, has been told to determine if there are enough votes for a deal within the GOP conference.

“We’re working through a lot of mechanics,” said Sen. Thom Tillis, North Carolina Republican. “We’re in a good place in terms of the contours of what would be a bipartisan agreement.”

Even though some are optimistic a deal can be reached, significant hurdles remain in place.

Gun-rights groups are already mobilizing against “red flag” laws that let authorities confiscate firearms from people who a court deems dangerous. They say such laws, which have been adopted by 19 states, infringe on due-process rights and could be abused.

Liberals, on the other hand, say that a red flag law and new restrictions on guns are the least that Congress can do.

“We want secure and safe schools, and we want gun laws that won’t make it so easy for the bad guys to get these damn guns,” said Hollywood star Matthew McConaughey, a native of Uvalde, Texas, during an appearance at the White House.

“Responsible gun owners are fed up with the Second Amendment being abused and hijacked by some deranged individuals,” he said.

Because this is an election year and the Supreme Court is expected to drop a bombshell ruling on abortion any day, lawmakers fret that momentum for a deal can be brought to a standstill by outside forces.

That’s partially the reason why Senate lawmakers are taking a wait-and-see approach with the bipartisan negotiations.

“We’re hoping to actually get an outcome that will make a difference,” said Mr. McConnell. “Step one is to try and get a deal … almost everyone, I think, would like to get an outcome that is related to the subject matter.”

While the Senate remains in a holding pattern, the Democratic-controlled House is barreling toward a vote on a series of gun-control measures that have no shot of becoming law.

Named the Protecting Our Kids Act, the legislation would raise the minimum age required to purchase a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21.

It also restricts ammunition magazine capacity to no more than 10 bullets and requires existing bump stocks to be registered, while banning the sale of new ones for civilian use.

“We owe the children of our country so much more than excuses for why we don’t have legislation,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

As Congress debates an appropriate response, the victims of a horrific spate of mass shootings are demanding action.

“What are you doing? You were elected to protect us,” Garnell Whitfield Jr., whose 86-year-old mother was killed last month when a gunman opened fire at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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