Talks on the US Senate Firearms Act yielded no progress

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic and Republican negotiators in the U.S. Senate said they were unable to reach agreement Thursday on a bipartisan response to the recent mass shootings in the United States, but pledged to continue their efforts.

A group of lawmakers led by Democratic Senator Chris Murphy and Republican Senator John Cornyn are trying to craft a plan that would enhance school security, address loopholes in the United States’ mental health system and keep guns away from criminals and individuals deemed a danger to the public or themselves.

Lawmakers had hoped for a deal by the end of the week, but told reporters such an outcome seemed “less likely” even as they planned a new round of virtual talks on Friday.

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“We’re not there yet,” Cornyn told reporters after exiting negotiations with Murphy, Democratic Senator Kirsten Senema and Republican Senator Tom Telles.

“I’m still optimistic that we’ll get a bill. But it’s a complex and challenging issue,” the Texas Republican added. “We have greatly reduced the cases.” He did not give details.

These efforts come on the heels of the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York; Uvald, Texas; Tulsa, Oklahoma and other places. Read more

Murphy told reporters his goal was to pass legislation that could stem the wave of shootings in America before the Senate splits from the July Fourth recess at the end of the month.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer has promised to put any deal to a speedy vote.

“This is really hard,” Murphy said. “There is a real devotion on behalf of everyone in the room to get this done. But there is also a devotion to doing it right.”

Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have called for new restrictions on gun ownership, including a ban on assault semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines, and raising the minimum age to purchase those guns from 18 to 21.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives voted largely along partisan lines on Wednesday to approve a comprehensive gun control package.

But this legislation has no chance of passing the Senate, which is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. As a party, Republicans have consistently defended gun ownership rights under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.

“The Second Amendment and sound public policy are not mutually exclusive here,” Cornyn said in a speech in the chamber. “And that’s the needle we’re trying to unravel.”

Senators are considering relatively modest changes that could attract the 60 votes needed to pass in the 100-seat chamber.

They can toughen background checks for 18-21-year-olds by encouraging states to make event records available to national databases, notifying local police that background checks have failed and giving authorities extra time to check a potential gun buyer’s records when necessary.

Cornyn said the legislation could also expand community mental health facilities to address underlying problems that can contribute to gun violence.

Lawmakers are also considering incentivizing government “red flag” laws to prevent disturbed individuals from using guns. They have turned to the question of how to generate potentially billions of dollars in financing without increasing the federal deficit.

Other proposals would enhance physical security for schools, including more security officers on campus.

Cornyn said the group is also considering a proposal to address the so-called purchasing of straw guns by individuals who represent buyers unable to pass background checks.

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(Reporting by David Morgan) Additional reporting by Kathryn Jackson. Editing by Ross Colvin, Cynthia Osterman and Jonathan Otis

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