"We have a deal": US Senators reach agreement on gun safety reform
Dr. Deshawnda Williams (2L) prays alongside community members at an anti-gun violence rally held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., June 4, 2022. Image: Rachel Wisniewski
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Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy announced Sunday that a group of 20 Senators have reached an agreement on gun safety legislation.

“We have a deal,” Murphy (D-Conn.) wrote in a tweet. “Today a bipartisan group of 20 senators (10 D and 10 R) is announcing a breakthrough agreement on gun violence.”

The announcement comes after a rash of mass shootings in the United States has left communities grieving and Americans demanding change.

On May 14th, a white supremacist gunman opened fire in a Buffalo supermarket, killing ten. On June 1st, a gunman opened fire in a Tulsa, Oklahoma hospital building, killing four before shooting himself. And on May 24th, an 18-year-old gunman walked unabated into an elementary school in Uvalde, TX, killing 19 children and 2 teachers.

The horror of these shootings stunned the nation and lead to calls for meaningful reform not seen in decades.

Buffalo shooting victim laid to rest; city marks 1 week gun safety reform us senators
Buffalo shooting victim laid to rest. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)

An overview of what the gun safety reform package includes

The package announced by the 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats includes legislative reforms and enhanced funding to combat violence.

Murphy, whose state experienced its own tragedy a decade ago in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, announced the six reforms in the gun safety package.

  1. “Major funding” for states to pass and implement red flag laws. These laws would allow courts to issue temporary orders for law enforcement to remove dangerous weapons from people who “pose a danger to others or themselves”.
  2. “Billions in funding” for community mental health clinics and enhanced school safety.
  3. Closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole” so that no one convicted of domestic abuse against their partner can buy a gun.
  4. A “first ever” federal law prohibiting gun trafficking and “straw purchases”. Gun trafficking laws will help to prevent the flow of guns into larger US cities from surrounding states. At the same time, straw purchase laws will make it a federal offense for someone who cannot pass a background check to use someone else’s name to buy a gun.
  5. An enhanced background check for people under 21 to purchase a gun. Murphy says “young buyers can get the gun only after the enhanced check is complete”.
  6. “Clarification of laws” to ensure all commercial sellers are completing background checks.

Reform package seen as a starting point after decades without change

While the gun safety package does not include an outright ban on AR-15s, raising the age limit to purchase an assault weapon or universal background checks, it is a notable step forward.

The United States experiences the most deaths related to gun violence of any nation with a developed economy in the world. Between 2016-2020, over 80,000 Americans were killed by gun violence. That’s more than the number of Americans killed in Hurricanes Katrina and Maria, the 9/11 attacks and the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan combined. This number doesn’t include individuals who committed suicide using a firearm.

According to the Mother Jones database, there have been nearly 100 mass shooting rampages since the last meaningful reform (the assault weapons ban) expired in 2004.

None of these almost 100 shootings in which 3 or more were killed stemmed from another crime (i.e. a robbery). Instead, all of them were deliberate, targeted attacks by an armed assailant.

Using a broader definition of a mass shooting (any shooting with 4 or more injured or killed), that number skyrockets. According to the Gun Violence Archive, America has already endured 260 of those mass shootings in 2022.

Murphy, who has been a leading voice for gun safety reform since the Sandy Hook massacre, is optimistic about this package.

“Will this bill do everything we need to end our nation’s gun violence epidemic?” Murphy wrote. “No… but it’s real, meaningful progress.”

“It breaks a 30-year log jam demonstrating that Democrats and Republicans can work together in a way that truly saves lives.”

Pro-reform groups are already urging Americans to take action to ensure the package passes. Moms Demand Action is urging people to “fight like hell” to make sure it becomes law. They ask Americans to call 202.224.3121 to urge a “yes” vote from their Senators and Representative.

Nate Morris moved to the Tulsa area in 2012 and has committed himself to helping build a more equitable and just future for everyone who calls the city home. As a teacher, advocate, community organizer...

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