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Manchin announces bipartisan framework for new gun safety law

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin announced Sunday that a bipartisan group reached a deal on several gun safety measures. (Photo by Steven Allen Adams)

CHARLESTON — A bipartisan group of lawmakers from the U.S. Senate, including U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, announced a path forward on a modest proposal for a package of gun safety measures meant to curb potential for future mass shootings.

Manchin, D-W.Va., announced in a joint statement Sunday morning that the bipartisan working group, consisting of Democratic and Republican U.S. Senators, have come to an agreement on several items that can be put into a bill and placed before the full Senate for consideration.

“Today, we are announcing a commonsense, bipartisan proposal to protect America’s children, keep our schools safe, and reduce the threat of violence across our country,” Manchin said in the joint statement. “Families are scared, and it is our duty to come together and get something done that will help restore their sense of safety and security in their communities.”

The bipartisan proposal includes new enhanced background checks for gun purchasers between the ages of 18 and 21, utilizing juvenile and mental health records to determine if a purchaser is eligible. The package includes increased penalties for anyone who purchases guns through straw purchases for the purpose of trafficking guns.

States would receive grants to pass red flag laws that prohibit someone who may be a danger to themselves or others from possessing firearms. Certain actions trigger red flag laws, such as arrests for domestic violence or certain misdemeanor charges, or mental health holds. Family members or police can petition a judge for someone to have their firearms taken away for a period of time under many red flag laws.

The package also included investments in mental health and suicide prevention programs in schools, including crisis and trauma intervention, violence prevention, wrap-around services, and access to telehealth; additional protections for victims of domestic violence, such as including those convicted or domestic violence or under a domestic violence restraining order in the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System; and updating definitions for federally licensed firearms dealers.

“Our plan increases needed mental health resources, improves school safety and support for students, and helps ensure dangerous criminals and those who are adjudicated as mentally ill can’t purchase weapons,” the bipartisan group said. “Most importantly, our plan saves lives while also protecting the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans. We look forward to earning broad, bipartisan support and passing our commonsense proposal into law.”

Speaking last week, U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said she was awaiting the outcome of the bipartisan negotiations before speaking about specific policy ideas. In a new statement Sunday afternoon, Capito said she would review the package and weigh in later.

“I’m encouraged when bipartisan solutions are offered like we are seeing with this group,” Capito said. “Now that an agreement has been announced, I will thoroughly analyze these proposals and subsequent legislation once it is finalized so we can move closer to a country where these senseless tragedies do not occur.”

Any agreement in the Senate would require 60 votes – or 10 Republicans voting with the Democrats – to even be considered, giving this bipartisan agreement a chance at passage in the coming weeks. Both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have allowed the bipartisan group all the time it need to come to an agreement.

Steven Allen Adams can be reached at sadams@newsandsentinel.com

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