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Connecticut’s Democratic senators say they've got gun deal that even Republicans can get behind

Chris Murphy
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
/
AP
A file photo of Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), speaking out against the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, during a morning television interview on Wednesday, May 25, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Since the shooting, Murphy has been credited as leading bipartisan gun reform negotiations.

Connecticut Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy say they’ve reached a bipartisan agreement that’ll yield at least 10 Republican votes for federal gun legislation.

The deal includes federal prosecution for those who make “straw” purchases of guns, made on behalf of those who cannot legally buy them; funding for states to enact and enforce red flag laws that temporarily take guns away from high-risk owners; and an effort to give law enforcement more time to do background checks on gun buyers under 21 years old.

Blumenthal says Democrats agreed to additional funding for mental health and security in schools to get the deal done.

“Investing in mental health and school security — we ought to be doing it anyway — but if it attracts Republican support so that they can say it’s a mental health bill, along with a gun safety measure, fine with me,” Blumenthal said Monday at a news conference in Hartford.

Murphy said that the deal still needs to be drawn up in the form of a bill and that it may not get passed until after the U.S. Senate’s July 4 holiday recess.

Cracking down on ‘straw purchasing’

One of the proposed gun reform measures deals with so-called straw purchases. The purchases are made on someone’s behalf, such as someone buying a gun for another person who can’t pass a background check.

Murphy says he doesn’t think current law goes far enough to stop these sales. But the new proposal would subject straw purchasers and firearm traffickers to federal prosecution.

“By cracking down on gun trafficking and straw purchasing, we will reduce the number of illegal guns that flow into Hartford that will have a downward pressure on gun deaths in this country,” Murphy said.

Murphy said his focus on gun legislation is inspired by a Hartford minister named Rev. Henry Brown.

“Don’t forget about the urban community in this movement,” said Brown, who spoke after Murphy at the news conference. “Too many of our young Black and brown kids are getting murdered every day.”

Brown, the co-founder of Mothers United Against Violence, once scolded Murphy for not being interested in gun violence until the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting in Newtown. But on Monday, Brown was more hopeful after news of the gun reform agreement.

“I’m telling you for 24 years I’ve been fighting against gun violence, and I’ve never seen anything this significant in those 24 years,” Brown said.

Closing the ‘boyfriend loophole’

Blumenthal said one of the measures that’s part of the bipartisan agreement on federal gun legislation is a plan to protect survivors of domestic violence by keeping guns out of the hands of their abusers.

The proposal calls for closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole.” Victims of domestic violence would be protected by federal law even if they weren’t married to or lived with their convicted abusers or shared a child with them. It would also apply to those who filed restraining orders against their abusers.

Blumenthal has long tried to pass a separate gun reform measure that keeps guns away from individuals with temporary restraining orders filed against them. It’s inspired by Lori Jackson of Oxford, who was shot to death by her abusive husband in 2014.

“We know that women are five times more likely to die if there is a gun in the home, whether it’s an estranged husband or a boyfriend to the woman who is killed.” Blumenthal said.

In a statement emailed to Connecticut Public, the Connecticut Coalition Against Gun Violence said the attempt to close the boyfriend loophole is part of “commonsense” changes that would “make survivors safer.”

Framework of gun legislation agreement 

According to Murphy’s office, this is the framework of the agreement:

Support for state crisis intervention orders

● Provides resources to states and tribes to create and administer laws that help ensure deadly weapons are kept out of the hands of individuals whom a court has determined to be a significant danger to themselves or others, consistent with state and federal due process and constitutional protections.

Investment in children and family mental health services

● National expansion of the community behavioral health center model; major investments to increase access to mental health and suicide prevention programs; and other support services available in the community, including crisis and trauma intervention and recovery.

Protections for victims of domestic violence

● Convicted domestic violence abusers and individuals subject to domestic violence restraining orders are included in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), including those who have or have had a continuing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature..

Funding for school-based mental health and supportive services

● Invests in programs to expand mental health and supportive services in schools, including early identification and intervention programs and school based mental health and wrap-around services.

Funding for school safety resources

● Invests in programs to help institute safety measures in and around primary and secondary schools, support school violence prevention efforts and provide training to school personnel and students.

Clarification of the definition of a federally licensed firearms dealer

● Cracks down on criminals who illegally evade licensing requirements.

Telehealth investments

● Invests in programs that increase access to mental and behavioral health services for youth and families in crisis via telehealth.

Under 21 enhanced review process

● For buyers under 21 years of age, an investigative period to review juvenile and mental health records would be required, including checks with state databases and local law enforcement.

Penalties for straw purchasing

● Cracks down on criminals who illegally straw-purchase and traffic guns.

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