A gun safety measure drafted by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators looks to have enough votes on both sides of the aisle to clear the upper chamber. The hope is to get the measure out of the Senate before Congress recesses for the Fourth of July.
Gun reforms in the package include expanding background checks for gun buyers between the ages of 18 and 21; those background checks would be federally mandated. The measure would also give states who want to put in place red flag laws – or laws that let authorities remove guns, at least temporarily, from people who are deemed dangerous – millions of dollars to do so.
Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas has played a key role in getting this bill to the Senate floor, much to the chagrin of some of his party’s hardline conservatives and former President Donald Trump.
Jeremy Wallace, a political reporter with the Houston Chronicle, joined the Texas Standard to share more about the proposed measures. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: Tell us about the specific gun reforms this package proposes.
Jeremy Wallace: Maybe one of the biggest items in it is that it’s going to allow a more expanded background check for gun buyers from 18 to 21. They can still purchase guns, but now police and law enforcement will have a chance to kind of look back and see what kind of juvenile records they’ve had, if they’ve had past run-ins with the law. And so they’ll give a little extra protection to kind of make sure that guns aren’t getting into the hands of people who have had some issues as 16-, 17-, 18-year-olds.
How much of this is mandatory from the federal government? In other words, how much discretion has been left to the states in this bill?
The background checks – that’ll happen now anywhere; law enforcement will have a chance to do that no matter where. But the red flag law portion of this thing is absolutely up to the states to handle. This will not expand red flag laws anywhere. And this is where a lot of John Cornyn’s problem has come from the right. Some folks in the right think that this is expanding red flag laws. There will be no red flag law expanded in Texas. Only states that have red flag laws will get additional funding to help them implement it, is what this bill does.
When it comes to the increasing the age for the purchases of long rifles, what does this bill say?
Absolutely nothing. This is one of the areas where John Cornyn says conservatives have a victory here. The Democrats had proposed items like this going forward to make sure that people under 21 cannot get those types of weapons. This will do nothing to stop that from happening.
Cornyn seems to be getting a lot of flak right now from members of his own party in Texas. How is that going to affect him? And overall, what does it reveal about Republicans as we head to this new election season?
That’s what was so amazing about this whole scenario. So last week, it looked like this bill was on the ropes. He was coming back to Texas. There was no deal in hand. He was saying the whole deal might be in jeopardy. He comes to Texas, he speaks at the Republican convention and they boo him mercisessly, just, you know, let him have it. A lot of people at that event told me as they were leaving, “Yeah, now this will stop him from doing it.” And some other gun control groups said, “Boy, I hope this doesn’t make him stop and move forward.”
He goes back to D.C. and he keeps pressing ahead. That’s what was so different about it. I think a lot of people thought that that would get in his head and slow him down, but not for John Cornyn. He’s been through this rodeo one time more than most people. He just pressed ahead. He now has the framework of this legislation that — again, not what all gun control advocates would want, they want more out of this thing — but is at least a step towards addressing what we saw happen in Uvalde.
What’s the next foot to drop here? When does the Senate take it up? And what about the House?
The Senate is trying to get this done before July Fourth, and they kind of have to get it done. There’s not much time left in the congressional calendar. All these members of Congress and senators are done by the time we get to August. But it looks good on the Senate side. They had a preliminary vote that shows that they are going to have over 60 people who are in support of this. So that’s the key number there. Then it’ll go over to the House – they move even faster. They can get this thing done in days and get that out of there. So I think by mid-July, we can be pretty safe to assume that this legislation is going to be moving on.