FILE PHOTO: Semi-automatic handguns are displayed at shop in New Castle, PA. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File) Gun Safety
FILE PHOTO: Semi-automatic handguns are displayed at shop in New Castle, PA. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

The bipartisan proposal offers only modest gun control measures and stepped-up efforts to improve school safety and mental health programs. It is expected to gain enough support to pass the Senate.

A watered down gun control proposal in response to recent mass shootings was offered Sunday as a bipartisan agreement likely to pass the US Senate.

The proposal, which places an emphasis on school safety and mental health programs, falls far short of addressing tougher steps long sought by President Joe Biden and many Democrats. Even so, the accord was embraced by Biden and its enactment would signal a significant turnabout after years of gun massacres that have yielded little but stalemates in Congress.

“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,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) in a statement co-authored with a bipartisan group of Senators. “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 proposal includes:

  • Support for state crisis intervention orders
  • Investment in children and family mental health services
  • Protections for victims of domestic violence
  • Funding for school-based mental health and supportive services
  • Funding for school safety resources
  • Clarification of definition of federally licensed firearms dealer, to prevent evasion of licensing requirements
  • Telehealth investments
  • Enhanced review process for gun buyers under 21 years of age
  • Penalties for straw purchasing, where someone purchases a gun for an individual who is legally prohibited from doing so.

Biden said in a statement that the framework “does not do everything that I think is needed, but it reflects important steps in the right direction, and would be the most significant gun safety legislation to pass Congress in decades.”

Given the bipartisan support, “there are no excuses for delay, and no reason why it should not quickly move through the Senate and the House,” he said.

Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senator, Bob Casey, took to Twitter to voice his support for the new proposal.

Last week, the US House passed an expansive gun bill that would raise the minimum age to purchase an assault rifle in the US from 18 to 21. US Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick was the only Pennsylvania Republican to vote in favor of the Protecting Our Kids Act, which would also ban the sale of large-capacity magazines, and institute new regulations regarding at-home gun storage.

The bipartisan proposal is the Senate’s response to the Protecting Our Kids Act which was not expected to pass the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called the accord “a good first step to ending the persistent inaction to the gun violence epidemic” and said he would bring the completed measure to a vote as soon as possible.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has supported the talks, was more restrained. He praised the bargainers’ work and said he is hoping for a deal that makes “significant headway on key issues like mental health and school safety, respects the Second Amendment, earns broad support in the Senate, and makes a difference for our country.”