Senate gun negotiations come into greater focus

Lawmakers involved in the ongoing bipartisan negotiations seeking to produce some form of gun-related legislation said on Sunday that a deal could coalesce around funding for mental health services, school security and an expansion of background checks.

Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who are part of the bipartisan talks, indicated in separate interviews that the potential package could also include incentives for states to implement red-flag laws.

Murphy told CNN “State of the Union” co-anchor Jake Tapper that the group would look to present “concepts” to lawmakers in the next five days to see if a deal was possible but cautioned it remained unclear if the talks would bear fruit.

“I think, this week, we need to have concepts to present to our colleagues. I don’t know that we’re going to vote this coming week, but we need to make decisions on whether or not we have a sustainable package in the next five days,” Murphy said.

Tapper asked the Connecticut Democrat that despite preparing for failure if he thought the talks would work.

“I’m more confident than ever that we’re going to get there, but I’m also more anxious about failure this time around,” Murphy responded.

The bipartisan negotiations were sparked by a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two teachers dead. That came just 10 days after a shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., killed 10, where the shooter deliberately targeted Black people.

On Wednesday, a gunman opened fire at a medical building in Tulsa, Okla., killing four people before turning the gun on himself. At least 233 mass shootings have taken place so far in the United States this year alone.

According to a new CBS poll taken about two weeks after the Uvalde shooting, 81 percent of American parents with school-aged children support background checks for all potential buyers, while 72 percent back a national red-flag law system and 62 percent support banning the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.

But bipartisan negotiations seeking to curb gun violence after high-profile shootings have come and gone before. 

A bill by Toomey and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) in 2013 to expand background checks for firearm purchases fizzled after it became clear it would not surpass the Senate filibuster, a 60-vote threshold required for most legislation.

Toomey said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that any new deal had to be “realistic,” expressing hope that at least half of Senate Republicans — a total of 25 lawmakers — would vote in favor of a potential package.

He said background checks were part of the new round of bipartisan talks, but an expansion would “probably” look different than the 2013 proposal.

“It hasn’t been finally resolved,” Toomey told moderator Margaret Brennan. “But something in the space of expanding background checks, I think it certainly is on the table, and I hope it will be part of a final package.”

Murphy had said on Sunday that the new potential deal would not include “comprehensive” background checks for firearm purchases but agreed strengthening the current system was possible. The Hill has reached out to Murphy and Toomey’s offices asking for additional details on the state of the background check talks.

Even if some Senate Republicans end up voting for the potential package, the proposals could face opposition from some GOP lawmakers in the House, where Democrats control the chamber by a razor-thin margin and every seat in the chamber is up for election.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) on Sunday said he does not support legislation on red-flag laws, which enable people to petition a court to prevent an individual deemed a danger to themselves or others from possessing or obtaining firearms.

Scalise told “Fox News Sunday” guest host John Roberts that red-flag laws are “unconstitutional,” saying it violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms when they seize firearms from an individual a court deems is a threat.

“They literally come into your house and take away your gun without you even knowing that there was some kind of proceeding where somebody said, ‘Oh, I think that gun might be a threat,’ ” Scalise said. “Maybe somebody thought taking away a gun from a 19-year-old is going to solve a problem. It happens to be unconstitutional.”

Scalise blamed Democrats for a rise in gun violence across the U.S., pointing to the “defund the police” movement and what he claimed were loose policies from city district attorneys.

“They’re letting criminals back out on the streets and inevitably what you see is higher rates of crime,” Scalise said on Fox. “And what you’re also seeing is more and more American citizens, law-abiding citizens, buying guns to defend themselves.”

On ABC’s “This Week,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, a former mayor of South Bend, Ind., said mayors can take steps to reduce community violence and invest in partnerships.

“But you’re also looking at Washington to say will anything be different this time?” he said.

“The idea that us being the only developed country where this happens routinely, especially in terms of the mass shootings, is somehow a result of the design of the doorways on our school buildings, is the definition of insanity if not the definition of denial,” Buttigieg said.