Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023|
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WASHINGTON — Democratic and Republican senators were at odds Thursday over how to keep firearms from dangerous people as bargainers struggled to finalize details of a gun violence compromise in time for their self-imposed deadline of holding votes in Congress next week.
Lawmakers said they remained divided over how to define abusive dating partners who would be legally barred from purchasing firearms. Disagreements were also unresolved over proposals to send money to states that have “red flag” laws that let authorities temporarily confiscate guns from people deemed dangerous by courts, and to other states for their own violence prevention programs.
The election-year talks have seemed headed toward agreement, with both parties fearing punishment by voters if Congress doesn’t react to the carnage of last month’s mass shootings. A total of 31 people were slain at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, and an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. An outline of a deal has been endorsed by President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a lead GOP bargainer, seemed visibly unhappy as he left Thursday’s closed-door session after nearly two hours, saying he was flying home.
“This is the hardest part because at some point, you just got to make a decision. And when people don’t want to make a decision, you can’t accomplish the result. And that’s kind of where we are right now,” Cornyn said.
“I’m not frustrated, I’m done,” he added, though he said he was open to continued discussions.
Lawmakers have said a deal must be completed and written into legislative language by week’s end if Congress is to vote by next week. It begins a July 4 recess after that. Leaders want votes by then because Washington has a long record of talking about reacting to mass shootings, only to see lawmakers’ and voters’ interest fade quickly over time.
Other bargainers seemed more optimistic, saying much of the overall package has been agreed to and aides were drafting bill language.
“A deal like this is difficult,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said when the meeting ended. “It comes with a lot of emotions, it comes with political risk to both sides. But we’re close enough that we should be able to get there.”
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