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Murray and Cantwell back bipartisan gun reform proposal while Northwest Republicans withhold judgment

UPDATED: Mon., June 13, 2022

The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is visible through heavy fog in Washington. A bipartisan group of 20 senators has reached an agreement in hopes of reducing gun violence.  (Andrew Harnik)
The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is visible through heavy fog in Washington. A bipartisan group of 20 senators has reached an agreement in hopes of reducing gun violence. (Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON – After a bipartisan group of senators unveiled a proposal over the weekend aimed at reducing gun violence in the wake of recent high-profile mass shootings, Washington’s Democratic senators expressed support while Northwest Republicans in Congress said they would withhold judgment until the legislation is finalized.

The framework was announced Sunday by the group of 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats, including Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C. It includes significant investments in mental health and school safety alongside modest gun safety measures that appear to have the support of enough GOP senators to clear a Senate filibuster.

“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,” the senators said in a 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.”

Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both Washington Democrats who are not part of the negotiating group, issued statements Sunday evening in support of the proposal while calling for stricter gun safety measures.

“This framework represents progress – and contains real measures that can help save lives,” Murray said. “It’s not everything we need to end gun violence, so I will continue to fight and press for commonsense gun safety reforms like universal background checks and an assault weapons ban. But I have said I would work with anyone to pass anything that may keep our families safe from gun violence, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get this framework passed and then I’ll keep fighting to do more.”

Cantwell pointed to provisions that would require stricter background checks for people under 21, including mandatory searches of juvenile justice and mental health records, and a grant program to incentivize states to implement “red flag” laws that allow a judge to temporarily take guns from people deemed a high risk of hurting themselves or others.

“Gun safety measures like red flag laws and more background checks for those under 21 are important measures to support,” she wrote Sunday on Twitter. “I look forward to reviewing the full text of this proposal and working to improve gun safety at the federal level.”

Republicans who represent the Inland Northwest in Congress didn’t rule out backing the bill, which likely would not need their votes to pass in either the Senate or the Democratic-majority House, while emphasizing their support for gun rights.

“I continue to support the Second Amendment rights all law-abiding citizens are entitled to,” Rep. Dan Newhouse said in a statement. “With the understanding that the legislation isn’t written yet, it would be irresponsible and premature for me to take a stance on it.”

Kyle VonEnde, a spokesman for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, said the Spokane Republican also would not weigh in until the legislative text is finalized.

“Cathy believes any legislation passed by Congress must not infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens to exercise their right to bear arms,” VonEnde said in a statement. “While she is prepared to thoughtfully review any legislation that comes before the House, she will not be taking a position on a bill that has yet to be drafted at this time.”

Spokespeople for Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, both Idaho Republicans, said the lawmakers would not comment until they see the detailed proposals. A spokesman for Rep. Russ Fulcher, a Republican who represents North Idaho, did not respond to questions.

Other components of the proposal include funding for community behavioral health centers, mental health services for children and families and suicide intervention programs. It would also crack down on illegal gun trafficking and increase funding for school safety measures.

Orion Donovan-Smith's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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