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Senators Grasp for a Bipartisan Gun Deal, Facing Long Odds


WASHINGTON — After the deadliest school shooting in a decade, a small group of Republican and Democratic senators have begun an urgent and uphill effort to strike a compromise on recent gun laws, voicing hope that a wave of collective outrage on the slaughter of 19 children and two teachers could finally conquer a decade of congressional paralysis.

Members of the bipartisan group emerged from a non-public meeting on Thursday determined to work quickly to try to achieve a deal on modest steps to limit access to guns. They agreed to spend the Memorial Day recess examining quite a lot of proposals, including ways to incentivize states to pass so-called red flag laws aimed toward taking firearms away from potentially dangerous people and expanding criminal background checks for gun buyers.

“We’re at a degree on this debate and within the trajectory of gun violence where we want something,” said Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, who’s spearheading the talks. “We want to indicate progress. Individuals are frightened. And so I’m probably far more willing to just accept something smaller and essential, but incremental, than I used to be a couple of months after Sandy Hook.”

The massacre 10 years ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., had grim parallels with the carnage that unfolded this week at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. The Sandy Hook shooting prompted an almost an identical set of calls for motion and expressions of bipartisan resolve on Capitol Hill, ultimately bringing Congress to the brink of enacting bipartisan background check laws in 2013. However the measure failed within the Senate, with a majority of Republicans and a couple of Democrats in opposition.

“Times change,” Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania and a sponsor of that bill, said on Thursday. “And there’s a possibility which may work this time.”

Leaders in each parties signaled tentative support for the trouble, whilst they sounded heavy notes of skepticism after years of failed attempts by Congress to deal with gun violence — each of them following the identical cycle of concern and optimism for a deal giving method to partisan division and, finally, defeat.

Democrats said they’d allow the talks to play out for less than so long before they’d insist that Republicans, who’ve opposed or blocked successive efforts at enacting gun control measures, take votes on the difficulty.

“We’re under no illusions that this shall be easy — we have now been burned previously when Republicans promised to debate just for them to interrupt their promise,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of Recent York, the bulk leader. “But even with long odds, the difficulty is so essential, so raw to the American people, so personal to countless families who’ve missing children, that we must pursue that chance.”

“Make no mistake about it,” he added, “if these negotiations don’t bear fruit in a brief time period, the Senate will vote on gun safety laws.”

In a sign that Republicans imagine the talks could potentially yield an agreement, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, said he had asked Senator John Cornyn of Texas, an in depth ally, to confer with Mr. Murphy and other Democrats working on a deal.

“I’m hopeful that we could give you a bipartisan solution that’s directly related to the facts of this awful massacre,” Mr. McConnell told CNN. He added, “I’m going to communicate with them, and hopefully, we will get an final result that may actually pass and develop into law, somewhat than simply scoring points forwards and backwards.”

Mr. Cornyn’s involvement signaled that Mr. McConnell intends to maintain close tabs on the discussions, giving him the means to intervene if he deems it mandatory to attempt to squelch a deal he regards as politically dangerous or steer the talks toward something that Republicans could accept.

In a stark reminder of the vast gulf between the 2 parties on how you can address mass shootings in the US, Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked laws recommend by Democrats to strengthen the federal government’s efforts to combat domestic terrorism.

Democrats pushed the measure through the House last week within the wake of a racist massacre in Buffalo during which a gunman motivated by white supremacist ideology killed 10 Black people in a supermarket.

The bill, generally known as the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, would establish three recent offices — one each within the F.B.I., the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security — to observe, investigate and prosecute domestic terrorism. It will require biannual reports assessing the domestic terrorism threat posed by white supremacists, with a specific deal with combating “white supremacist and neo-Nazi infiltration of the uniformed services.”

It was first introduced in 2017, but Democratic leaders hurried to resurface it following the shooting in Buffalo. In that shooting, the gunman appeared to have been inspired by the white supremacist “great substitute” theory, which holds that Western elites are plotting to disempower white people by replacing them with people of color.

After the college shooting in Uvalde this week, Democratic leaders framed the domestic terrorism bill as the most effective vehicle for quick motion on gun violence prevention measures. Mr. Schumer promised to permit debate on proposed changes to the bill from each parties to deal with gun violence if Republicans allowed it to maneuver forward.

But in a party-line vote, Senate Republicans rejected even considering the measure, arguing that the bill was unnecessary and defined extremism in a way that may very well be too broadly construed by law enforcement. The vote was 47 to 47, leaving Democrats in need of the 60 votes needed to maneuver forward on the bill.

Its failure meant that the Senate left for the Memorial Day recess with none legislative motion to deal with the 2 mass shootings.

Democrats have as a substitute staked their hopes for gun safety laws on the bipartisan negotiations led by Mr. Murphy. Multiple senators said their preference was to see if there was a deal available before taking one other preordained vote on laws that’s doomed to fail in an evenly divided Senate.

“We’ve all made it clear where we stand on individual laws repeatedly on this place,” said Senator Martin Heinrich, Democrat of Recent Mexico. “What we haven’t done is passed laws very rattling often, so I’m just attempting to be open-minded.”

Mr. Murphy, who had asked Mr. Schumer for time to pursue negotiations, hosted a gaggle of senators in his basement hideaway office within the Capitol on Thursday, including multiple veterans of failed negotiations over gun laws.

In an interview later within the day, Mr. Murphy conceded that he was embarking on a difficult task: trying to search out an answer for gun violence that 10 Republicans could support, enough to interrupt a filibuster.

“We’re attempting to put enough Republicans within the room, possibly not in order that we’re guaranteed 60 votes, but in order that we have now a a lot better shot at it,” he said. “And we’re also being realistic.”

The Republicans on the meeting included Mr. Toomey and Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina; one other Republican, Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, called in. Other Democrats in attendance included Mr. Heinrich and Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

Participants insisted that the gutting images from Uvalde had created a recent sense of urgency.

“This feels different,” Mr. Manchin said, nearly a decade after he partnered with Mr. Toomey on the background check laws that did not clear a Senate filibuster. He added: “I’ve never been on this state of mind. I can’t get my grandchildren out of my mind.”

The slate of options that senators are considering is narrower and more incremental than the gun safety measures that Democrats and activists have clamored for previously, corresponding to a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Mr. Graham, as an illustration, said that he was specializing in making a grant program to incentivize states to enact red flag laws, that are intended to limit potentially dangerous people from having guns. A federal red flag law, he said, can be a nonstarter.

Senator Rick Scott of Florida, a hard-line Republican, has engaged with Democrats on red flag laws in recent days as well, Mr. Murphy said.

Senators have also been discussing measures to expand background checks and supply additional support for varsity security, a problem that Republicans have focused heavily on within the wake of the Uvalde shooting.

Talks were expected to proceed over recess, with senators breaking into groups to debate specific issues.

“We’re getting began to attempt to determine if there may be a path to attending to a consensus,” Mr. Toomey said, “and we’ll see where it takes us.”

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