Commentary

The U.S. Senate has a deal on gun reform — if it can keep it | Monday Morning Coffee

The framework announced Sunday is the first chance for change in years. Republicans will have blood on their hands if they torpedo it

June 13, 2022 7:18 am

UVALDE, TEXAS – MAY 25: A child crosses under caution tape at Robb Elementary School on May 25, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. According to reports, during the mass shooting, 19 students and 2 adults were killed, with the gunman fatally shot by law enforcement. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

On Sunday, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators announced they’d reached a tentative agreement on a package of gun-violence reduction proposals that fall far short of those sought by the White House, Democrats and anti-violence activists, but one that still remains the first real hope of reforms in years.

The deal was being billed as a framework, which means it still needs to be turned into actual legislation, and all the fine print needs to be ironed out. But such are our diminished expectations after years of legislative malpractice on gun reform, that the announcement sparked the first real optimism for change.

In a statement, President Joe Biden said the framework that Senate negotiators announced Sunday “does not do everything that I think is needed, but it reflects important steps in the right direction, and would be the most significant gun safety legislation to pass Congress in decades,” the Associated Press reported.

According to the APBiden called for swift action, saying “there are no excuses for delay, and no reason why it should not quickly move through the Senate and the House.”

Which makes one wonder if Biden has spent any amount of time on Capitol Hill during his two years at the helm … but no matter.

Crucially, however, the proposal has the backing of 10 Republican senators, including U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.

Republicans in the upper chamber have been a brick wall of opposition, stymying proposal after proposal, even as thousands of Americans, including children, have continued to lose their lives to gun violence.

(Photo via Getty Images/Colorado Newsline.)

In addition to Toomey, the Republicans supporting the plan are: U.S. Sens. John Cornyn, of Texas; Thom Tillis, and Richard Burr, of North Carolina; Roy Blount, of Missouri, Bill Cassidy, of Louisiana; Susan Collins, of Maine; Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, Rob Portman, of Ohio, and Mitt Romney, of Utah.

Ten Democratic senators, led by U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, of Connecticut, whose ranks also critically include U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, joined with their Republican colleagues in a joint statement calling for enactment of the reforms.

With the upper chamber narrowly divided at 50-50, the math there is inescapable. That’s because it takes 10 Republican votes to move any piece of legislation forward, the Associated Press noted.

“Today, we are announcing a commonsense, bipartisan proposal to protect America’s children, keep our schools safe, and reduce the threat of violence across our country,” the Senate negotiators said in a joint statement.

“Families are scared, and it is our duty to come together and get something done that will help restore their sense of safety and security in their communities,” they continued.

“Our plan increases needed mental health resources, improves school safety and support for students, and helps ensure dangerous criminals and those who are adjudicated as mentally ill can’t purchase weapons,” the lawmakers concluded. “Most importantly, our plan saves lives while also protecting the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans. We look forward to earning broad, bipartisan support and passing our commonsense proposal into law.”

BUFFALO, NEW YORK – MAY 15: People gather outside of Tops market on May 15, 2022, in Buffalo, New York. Yesterday a gunman opened fire at the store, killing ten people and wounding another three. Suspect Payton Gendron was taken into custody and charged with first degree murder. U.S. Attorney Merrick Garland released a statement, saying the US Department of Justice is investigating the shooting “as a hate crime and an act of racially-motivated violent extremism”. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The compromise plan that emerged Sunday would provide an “enhanced review process” for gun buyers younger than 21 years old that would require “an investigative period to review juvenile and mental health records, including checks with state databases and local law enforcement,” the lawmakers said in their statement.

Biden and other reformers had sought to ban the sale of semiautomatic weapons to those younger than 21, since the shooters in the rampage in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas last month both were 18 years old.

The proposal also would provide money to states that enact ‘red flag laws,’ that allow for the temporary, court-ordered seizure of someone’s weapons if it’s shown they pose a danger to themselves and others.

Despite popular support, past efforts to enact these extreme risk protection orders, as they’re formally known, have failed in Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled General Assembly. The announcement also came at the end of a weekend that saw tens of thousands of Americans take to the streets demanding change from Washington.

The framework also would provide funding for expanded mental health services for children and families. It also would provide additional protections for survivors of domestic violence, according to the statement that senators issued Sunday.

According to the Associated Press, “details and legislative language [will] be written over the coming days.”

It’s important to remember, however, that a framework isn’t a done deal.

And on Sunday, as constant as the North Star, the NRA tweeted that, while it doesn’t take a position on frameworks, it “will continue to oppose any effort to insert gun control policies, initiatives that override constitutional due process protections & efforts to deprive law-abiding citizens of their fundamental right to protect themselves/loved ones into this or any other legislation.”

And while he praised his colleagues for their diligent work, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.stopped well short of an actual endorsement, according to Politico.

“I continue to hope their discussions yield a bipartisan product that makes significant headway on key issues like mental health and school safety, respects the Second Amendment, earns broad support in the Senate, and makes a difference for our country,” McConnell said, according to Politico.

After too many years of inaction, Congress may finally have — to borrow a phrase — a deal, if it can keep it. If Republicans torpedo this, they will have blood on their hands.

The choice is entirely theirs.

(Image via pxHere.com)

Our Stuff.
Nationally, 43 percent of college attendees say they’re carrying some type of educational debtCassie Miller reports in this week’s edition of the Numbers Racket.

The Legislature’s budget bosses are on their way out, but they’re likely to stick to their roles as stalwart fiscal conservatives, Peter Hall reports.

State and local health departments remain in limbo over whether they’ll need to single-handedly fund their own COVID-19 vaccines and treatments as a stalemate in Congress drags into its fourth month, Capital-Star Washington Reporter Jennifer Shutt writes.

A bill authorizing psilocybin treatment is now before a state House committee, but its prospects appear uncertain, summer intern Christina Baker reports.

On our Commentary Page, opinion regular Dick Polman suggests a move to Australia, where weapons of mass murder have been banned for years and its citizens are spared routine outbreaks of mass carnage. Also, a philosopher explains why blaming ‘evil’ for violence isn’t as simple as it seems.

En la Estrella-Capital: La salud de la Bahía de Chesapeake gana terreno; Pa. aún debe cumplir sus compromisos de limpieza‘La vida de mi madre importaba’: El hijo de la víctima del tiroteo en Buffalo le insta al Congreso a actuar.

Beginning Jan. 3, 2022, Commissioner Al Schmidt will serve as the next president and chief executive for the Committee of Seventy. (Submitted photo)

Elsewhere.
Former Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt, a Republican who was a vocal critic of stop the steal efforts in Pennsylvania, will testify before the Jan. 6 committee, the Inquirer reports.

The House committee’s hearing today will focus on how former President Donald Trump’s big lie mobilized the insurrectionists, the Washington Post reports.

Amid a surge in gun violence, Pittsburgh leaders are looking for more information about Mayor Ed Gainey’s ‘peace plan,’ the Post-Gazette reports.

Pro- and anti-abortion rights forces are gearing up for a fight over Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate seatPennLive reports.

The York Daily Record names the region’s most active residents for social justice and change for 2022 (subscriber-only).

Joining others nationwide, about 1,000 people rallied in Bethlehem for gun reform over the weekend, the Morning Call reports.

Luzerne County Council is set to appoint a new member, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

Children aged 5 and younger could get the COVID-19 vaccine by month’s endWHYY-FM runs down what you need to know.

Vulnerable Democrats in Pennsylvania and elsewhere are running against their own party, the Associated Press reports (via WITF-FM).

GoErie profiles the efforts of a local nonprofit that’s fighting hunger by putting unused food to use.

As they look to bring back riders, public transit agencies are turning to discounts and other perksStateline.org reports.

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:

What Goes On
The House comes in at 12 p.m. The Senate reconvenes at 1 p.m.
10 a.m., 60 East Wing: House Judiciary Committee: The panel reportedly plans some kind of action on Democratic-authored gun violence reform bills. It is not clear what that action will involve – though Democrats say they’re bracing for mischief.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
5 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Tina Davis.
5:30 p.m: Reception for Sen. Scott Martin
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Joanna McClinton
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and you’re out an absolutely preposterous $22,500 today.

WolfWatch
As of this writing, Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

Heavy Rotation
Here’s some new music from indie rock stalwarts The Afghan Whigs to get the week started. It’s ‘The Getaway.’


Monday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
The teams are set: It’s Colorado v. Tampa in the Stanley Cup FinalNHL.com previews what you need to know about the two teams ahead of their first clash on Wednesday.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.

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