Senators reach a bipartisan deal on gun safety legislation The agreement, which has the support of at least 10 Republican senators, is narrowly focused at preventing future shootings similar to the one in Uvalde, Texas.

A bipartisan group of senators announces a deal for school safety and gun measures

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After years of bitter division in Washington, a narrow bipartisan agreement on guns has finally been reached. A group of 20 senators say they have a deal on legislation aimed at reducing gun violence in America. The agreement includes money to encourage states to pass red flag laws, funding for mental health programs and school safety and some changes to background checks for young gun buyers. Passage is not guaranteed, but negotiators are calling it a significant breakthrough. NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell has been following this, and she joins me now. Hi, Kelsey.


THOMPSON: So what can you tell us about how this agreement came together?

SNELL: Well, negotiators said that they wanted to prevent another shooting like the one last month in Uvalde, Texas, where an 18-year-old killed 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school. So this deal looks at school safety and security and getting guns out of the hands of people who, under existing laws and standards, should not have guns anyway. So we don't have the full details of how each section will be worded, but the framework calls for an additional vetting for potential gun buyers between the ages of 18 and 21. Many lawmakers said they needed to do something to prevent young people with juvenile records or a history of mental health issues from obtaining guns.

And lawmakers say the plan would also reduce what's known as the boyfriend loophole, so it would include dating partners in preventing convicted domestic abusers from buying a gun. Another section would provide federal funding to encourage states to pass so-called red flag laws, which would allow organizations and law enforcement to take guns away from people who already own them but might pose a threat to themselves or others.

THOMPSON: What about the elements around school safety and mental health? How would those work?

SNELL: The framework calls for funding for school-based programs like mental health support, violence prevention and training for students and educators. There's also money to expand telehealth for mental and behavioral health treatment, although I should say mental health experts say the majority of gun violence is not perpetrated by people with a history of mental illness.

THOMPSON: Since this is just a framework so far and not an actual bill, what are the chances that Congress is actually able to pass all of this and that it will become law?

SNELL: Lawmakers have repeatedly told me throughout this process that the horror and tragedy of that shooting in Uvalde shifted the willingness in Congress to reopen gun talks that have been stalled for years. And there has been huge support for the plan since it was announced. The bipartisan group includes 10 Republicans. So it is possible that the plan could have sufficient support to overcome a filibuster in the Senate, which has been the main obstacle for gun legislation in the past several years. And President Biden did put out a statement today saying there are no excuses for delays and no reason why it should not move quickly through the Senate and the House. Plus, outside gun advocacy groups have been very supportive. Some, like Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, are calling it the most significant breakthrough in decades.

But some pro-gun groups are already opposed to the plan, and they will have time to pressure Republicans because turning a framework into legislative language takes time. It may be weeks before a bill is finalized and ready for a vote.

THOMPSON: NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell, thanks for joining me.

SNELL: Thanks for having me.

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