GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – Sen. Thom Tillis is one of its architects. Sen. Richard Burr immediately supported it. But that doesn’t mean the bipartisan guns bill a group of Senators is proposing will make it out of the Senate or be supported by members of the U.S. House, who passed their own guns bill just last week.
To be clear the bill announced Sunday by the senators – Tillis along with fellow Republican John Cornyn of Texas and Democrats Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Krysten Sinema of Arizona were principal – represented progress as legislators debate how best to address the cause and effect of mass shootings, particularly those that kill children, which happened most recently at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
Since that shooting took 21 lives – 19 of them children – on May 24, this group of senators has been meeting privately to discuss compromise legislation to address assault rifles, protections in schools and other options to help separate mental issues from weaponry.
Democrats largely have asked for a total ban on AR-15 assault rifles and other military-type weapons, stronger background checks, so-called “red-flag laws” for mental patients. Republicans tend to focus less on guns and more on making schools “harder” and placing greater focus on mental health.
Based on information provided by the group of Senators, the compromise bill would:
- Make the juvenile records of gun buyers under age 21 available when they undergo background checks.
- Offer financial incentives to states to put in place “red flag” laws that make it easier to take guns from people considered potentially violent.
- Provide funds to bolster school safety and mental health programs.
- Require some gun dealers to obtain federal dealers’ licenses that would mandate background checks of buyers.
- Bar convicted domestic abusers who do not live with a former partner from buying firearms.
- Make it a criminal act to buy a weapon from someone who is not qualified for ownership.
A lot of the specifics of all of that – including precise definitions, penalties and how to pay for programs – still must be delineated, The Associated Press reported.
Tillis and Burr were among 20 senators, including 10 Republicans, who on Sunday released a statement in support of the proposal. Passage in the Senate likely would require at least 10 votes by GOP members.
Reactions from candidates
Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance), who represents the 13th District and is the Republican nominee to replace the retiring Burr in the Senate, owns a gun shop and has advocated for gun rights groups. He recently backed a proposal by Rep. Richard Hudson (R-Concord) to make put more safety measures in schools. Budd voted against the House bill – as did all Republicans representing North Carolina – and his spokesperson said he is not ready to comment on the Senate’s proposal
“Currently there is no legislative text on this, only a broad framework. Because of that, our office does not have a comment at this time,” Curtis Kalin, Budd’s spokesperson, said in an email response to a question from WGHP.
His opponent in the Senate race, Democrat Cheri Beasley, a former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, stated Monday on Twitter that she supports the bipartisan compromise in the Senate.
“I support this deal, which is an important step forward that includes commonsense action to save lives,” she wrote. “As a mom and a former judge who has worked for the safety of our children, I will work tirelessly in the U.S. Senate to ensure that no more precious lives are lost.”
Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro), who is running for re-election in the 6th Congressional District, has worked on legislation about gun violence, and she issued a statement that called the agreement “a first step toward ending the scourge of gun violence that is ravaging our communities. I commend my Senate colleagues for working together to arrive at this compromise, and I urge them to work swiftly to draft this legislation so it can be passed into law,” she said.
“Gun violence will not be eradicated with one bill, but this agreement includes important measures that will help states effectively implement red flag laws, close the boyfriend loophole, enhance background checks for people under twenty-one, and increase access to mental health services. To take advantage of these resources, North Carolina must pass red flag laws to protect Americans from dangerous people who may be a threat to themselves or others.
“This agreement represents the first bipartisan opportunity to pass gun violence prevention legislation in more than two decades. It’s long overdue. The loved ones of the more than 41,000 Americans lost to gun violence every year are counting on Congress to get this done.”
The House bill
This Senate proposal, though, is far less restrictive than a measure passed by the House largely along a party-line vote that would place much more stringent requirements on gun ownership and ban some weapons.
The House bill would:
- Raise the legal age to buy certain semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21 years old.
- Establish federal offenses for gun trafficking and for selling large-capacity magazines.
- Allow local governments to compensate individuals who surrender such magazines through a buyback program.
- Create a tax incentive for retail sales of safe storage devices.
- Set criminal penalties for breaking laws stipulating how firearms must be stored in residences.
- Strengthen existing federal regulations on bump stocks and ghost guns.
Manning, a member of the House gun Violence Prevention Task Force, delivered a floor speech in support of that legislation.
But it’s not expected to gain traction in the Senate, although five Republicans supported it: Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, Fred Upton of Michigan, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Chris Jacobs of New York. Two Democrats – Jared Golden of Maine and Kurt Schrader of Oregon – voted against it.
Felons with guns
Tillis on Monday joined a group of Republican senators – Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy of Louisiana, Steve Daines of Montana, Josh Hawley of Missouri, John Thune of South Dakota and Todd Young of Indiana – in filing a bill to increase penalties for felons who illegally possess or use firearms.
Such possession charges often are added to arrests of repeat offenders. This bill would set a minimum sentence of 5 years, increase mandatory sentences for repeat felons based on a sliding scale that could range up to 15 years and address technical language in the Armed Career Criminal Act.
“Finding commonsense solutions to reduce gun violence starts with preventing dangerous, violent felons from illegally possessing a firearm,” Tillis said in a release about the bill. “This is a necessary measure that could save countless lives, without treading on the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans. It is a first step in reducing gun violence and I am proud to work with my colleagues to tighten up current law for felons and repeat offenders.”