MINNEAPOLIS — A bipartisan group of 20 U.S. senators reached an agreement on a broad number of gun safety policy proposals it believes will get through the full Senate.
Noting that the 9 Democrats, 10 Republicans and 1 independent have not released any of the bill's language yet, clinical law professor Megan Walsh from the University of Minnesota also points out this progress is rare.
"This is a big deal, especially considering we're in a really partisan political environment," Walsh said. "Legislation is proposed all the time but nothing has happened in years. It's been over 25 years since Congress has passed significant firearms legislation."
The proposed package includes closing the "boyfriend loophole." Currently, federal law prohibits people convicted of domestic violence crimes from buying or owning guns only if they're married to the person they abused or if they have a child together or live together.
"That left out a huge hole of a number of dating partners who do not fall into those categories," Walsh said.
Modeled after Minnesota U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar's bill, new legislation would expand who is prohibited from buying guns after being convicted of domestic abuse.
Extreme risk protection orders are also included in the proposed package. This allows a court to determine whether an individual is at risk of hurting themselves or someone else. If so, the order would allow the court or law enforcement to temporarily take guns away from the person deemed at risk. While 19 states have this kind of law, Minnesota does not.
"[There are] concerns that I've heard from the gun-rights side that this extreme risk protection order will be abused," Walsh said. "It will be brought by dating partners who are trying to get back at former partners or law enforcement who are using this for the wrong reasons but that's really not been what's happened in the states that have passed these laws."
Walsh says the senators also agree on a plan to get illegal guns off the streets, including making gun trafficking and straw purchases illegal. A straw purchase is when someone buys a gun for an individual who is prohibited from doing so themselves.
"People in the gun-violence prevention movement would like to see more but it doesn't mean that these measures won't save lives or that this is not significant," Walsh said.
Sunday evening on Twitter, the NRA wrote that it "will continue to oppose any effort to insert gun control policies, initiatives that override constitutional due process protections & efforts to deprive law-abiding citizens of their fundamental right to protect themselves into this or any legislation."
Minnesota U.S. Senator Tina Smith released a statement in response to the bipartisan gun safety framework, calling it "excellent news." She said she's "especially grateful" to the Connecticut Senators working on this issue since the Sandy Hook tragedy.
Monday, Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer promised to get gun legislation onto the Senate floor as soon as it's finished.
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