Y’all Politics

Compromise gun deal in U.S. Senate announced. What’s in it and what’s not?

Mississippi Senators Wicker, Hyde-Smith await actual bill language before committing, wary of infringing on constitutional rights.

By Frank Corder

Over the weekend, 10 Republican U.S. Senators joined with 10 of their Democrat colleagues to unveil a tentative compromise agreement on gun control legislation in the wake of the Uvalde, Texas school shooting.

Closed door meetings between the parties have been happening for weeks with President Joe Biden reluctant to wade into the talks.

Yesterday, top Senate Republican leadership appeared ready to move forward.

“If this framework becomes the actual piece of legislation, it’s a step forward, a step forward on a bipartisan basis,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told reporters on Tuesday.

Texas Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn is the lead negotiator for the GOP on the legislation along with North Caroline Republican Senator Thom Tillis. For Democrats, Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy and Arizona Senator Krysten Sinema are at the table coordinating for their side.

Senator Cornyn spoke on the Senate floor to outline the framework from which the negotiations have moved forward between the two parties. You can watch the floor speech below.

Some of the proposals in the legislation include:
•   Support for state crisis intervention orders
•   Investment in children and family mental health services
•   Protections for victims of domestic violence
•   Funding for school-based mental health and supportive services
•   Funding for school safety resources
•   Clarification of definition of federally licensed firearms dealer
•   Telehealth investments
•   Under 21 enhanced review process
•   Penalties for straw purchasing

Senator Cornyn was quick to point out on Twitter what was not in the legislation, saying on Monday that the following ideas we rejected in the bipartisan agreement on principles for gun-related legislation.

“Why? Because we knew that if they were included, the bill would not command the votes needed for passage,” Cornyn added.

Those provisions not included in the gun legislation include:
•   Universal background checks
•   Assault weapons ban for 18 to 21-year-olds
•   Mandatory waiting period for all gun sales
•   21-day waiting period for purchases of all firearms for 18 to 21-year-olds
•   High-capacity magazine ban
•   Unconstitutional mandatory safe storage requirements for all firearms in home
•   Licensing requirement for purchasing an assault weapon
•   Criminal penalties for negligent storage of firearms in home
•   Low mens rea standard for straw purchasing and trafficking firearms

This list of provisions not included in the Senate compromise bill was largely what Democrats in the U.S. House had been advocating for under Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s leadership.

As for “red flag” laws which are hotly debated between the two sides, the proposal does offer funds for states to implement such legislation on their own, a point of contention that is likely to raise concern for many on the Republican side of the aisle.

However, Senator Cornyn made it clear on Tuesday that he did not support national red flag laws, tweeting:

“When it comes to our school safety & mental health framework I want to be clear: No national red flag law. I don’t support any prescriptive mandates or national mandates at all, including a national red flag law,” the Texas Senator wrote.

The question for Republican Senators will be why the federal government would incentivize states’ implementation of “red flag” laws they do not support at the federal level.

Here in Mississippi, Senators Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith are waiting for the negotiations to conclude and the actual language of the bill to be filed before committing their vote one way of the other. The legislation will need to clear the 60-vote threshold in the 50-50 split Senate to move forward.

Senator Wicker told Y’all Politics late Tuesday that he will review the language of the bill and consider workable solutions that step up enforcement of existing laws and address mental health challenges but that do not infringe on the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners.

“I look forward to reviewing the proposed language when it comes out to see if there are workable solutions to promote school safety and prevent gun violence without infringing upon the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners,” Wicker said. “As I have said before, I support efforts to step up enforcement of our existing laws and address the serious mental health challenges that lead to mass shootings.”

A spokesman for Senator Hyde-Smith told Y’all Politics that just as she does with all legislation, the Senator would like to see the actual legislative language before commenting on the gun control framework.

“The Senator remains steadfast in protecting Second Amendment rights, supporting law enforcement, and protecting children,” Hyde-Smith’s office said in a statement.

But Senator Hyde-Smith is not sold on the agreement just yet, in large part due to the recent actions and narratives by some who are now praising this agreement.

“Given that, she finds it difficult not to be wary of any agreement being praised by some of the same people who not long ago called for defunding the police and easing criminal prosecutions,” Hyde-Smith’s spokesman stated.

The Senate negotiators would like to see the measure passed before the July 4th recess.