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Terrible shootings, political forces unite to initiate an arms deal

WASHINGTON – The country has long experienced a numbing succession of mass shootings in schools, places of worship and public gatherings. No one has forced Congress to respond with significant legislation — until now.

Last month, a white gunman was accused of racial motives in the killing of 10 black men in a supermarket Buffalo, New York. Another gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

The killings of shoppers and schoolchildren just 10 days apart — innocents involved in day-to-day activities — helped spark a fierce public demand for Congress to do something, lawmakers from both parties say. Bargainers produces a Bipartisan Gun Violence Act that the Senate will move on to approval later this week, with House action expected some time later.

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Here’s a look at the confluence of factors that helped reach a compromise.

REPUBLICAN MOTIVATION

This is an election year. Republicans are favored to take over the House, now closely controlled by Democrats, and have a solid chance of capturing the 50-50 Senate.

To increase their chances Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.knows they need to attract moderate voters like suburban women who will decide competitive races in states like Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and North Carolina.

Taking steps aimed at reducing bloody rampages helps the GOP show that it is responsive and sensible — an image tarnished by former President Donald Trump and far-right deniers of his 2020 election defeat.

Underscoring the focus he prefers, McConnell praised the arms deal, clearly telling reporters Wednesday that it requires significant steps to “address the two issues I think it focuses on, school safety and mental health.”

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According to a cost estimate by the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office, the bill would spend $8.6 billion on mental health programs and over $2 billion on school safety and other improvements. The analysts estimated the total cost at around $13 billion, more than paid for by budget savings, which they also claim.

But it also makes the juvenile records of gun buyers ages 18 to 20 part of the background checks required to purchase firearms, bans guns for convicted domestic abusers who are not married to their victims or live with their victims, and tightened penalties for arms trafficking. It funds violence prevention programs and helps states implement laws that help authorities temporarily confiscate guns from those deemed risky.

DEMOCRATS ALSO WANT A MIDDLE WAY

The measure lacks stronger restrictions supported by Democrats, such as banning the assault rifles used in Buffalo. Uvalde and other massacres and the high-capacity ammunition magazines these shooters used.

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said Wednesday that this time Democrats decided they “wouldn’t hold a vote on a bill with a lot of things we’d want but no hope of passing.” would have”. This has been the pattern for years.

Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and Republican Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina led negotiators in talks that lasted four weeks. Their agreement is the most important act by Congress to combat gun violence since the now-expired assault weapons ban, passed in 1993.

For nearly 30 years, “both parties sat in their respective corners and decided that doing nothing was politically safer than taking a risk,” Murphy told reporters. He said Democrats need to show “that we were willing to put some things on the table that took us out of our comfort zone.”

GUN RIGHTS VOTER

Gun rights defenders are disproportionately Republican, and the party crosses them at its peril. Trump, who may be preparing for a presidential bid in 2024, issued a statement calling the compromise “the first step in the movement to TAKE YOUR GUNS AWAY.”

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McConnell took pains to say that the measure “does not even affect the rights of the overwhelming majority of American gun owners who are law-abiding, sane citizens.”

Despite this, the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun groups oppose the compromise, which will be a test of their influence.

Supporting this legislation must not confuse Republicans with pro-gun voters.

McConnell and Cornyn have spoken about GOP polls showing gun owners overwhelmingly support many of the bill’s provisions. And those voters will likely resent sky-high gas prices and inflation and still be able to vote Republican.

WIN FOR BOTH SIDES

Around two-thirds of the 50 Senate Republicans are expected to oppose the guns measure. But congressional approval would be a GOP victory because Democrats would be prevented from using gun violence in their campaigns, said Republican pollster Neil Newhouse. “Taking that off the table as a potential problem for Democrats puts the focus right back on inflation and the economy,” Newhouse said.

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Not so, says Democratic pollster Geoffrey Garin. He said the approval will allow Democrats to tout an achievement in running Congress and demonstrate they can work across party lines. Democrats can still fight Republicans to oppose tougher measures like curbing assault weapons, issues where “Democrats clearly have political leadership,” Garin said.

Fourteen Republicans, including Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, voted Tuesday to take the law a step closer to passage. It’s probably telling that she and Indiana Senator Todd Young were the only two facing re-election this fall. Three are retiring and eight, including McConnell, Cornyn and Tillis, will not run again until 2026.

WHAT LEGISLATORS HAVE HEARD

Senators say they’ve noticed a different mood at home.

Senate Democrat No. 2 leader Richard Durbin of Illinois said some people he’s known for a long time have told him, “maybe it’s time to get my kids out of this country,” which he believes is incredible called. “That they would even consider that possibility shows how desperate families are” following the recent shootings.

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“The first thing I heard was ‘Do something,'” Murkowski said. “And it wasn’t ‘ban this, do that,’ it was ‘do something’.”

That wasn’t the case for everyone. Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana, where guns are common, said of his constituents, “They want to make sure their Second Amendment rights are defended,” the constitutional provision that allows people to keep firearms.

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Associated Press writer Susan Haigh of Hartford, Connecticut contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/22/ghastly-shootings-political-forces-align-to-prompt-gun-deal/ Terrible shootings, political forces unite to initiate an arms deal

Sarah Y. Kim

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