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20 bipartisan senators announce deal on gun legislation, mental health services

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20 bipartisan senators announce deal on gun legislation, mental health services
A group of 20 bipartisan senators on Sunday announced a deal to invest in gun control legislation and mental health services in efforts to curb mass shootings. File Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo

June 12 (UPI) -- A bipartisan group of senators on Sunday announced an agreement on legislation including gun restrictions and mental health and school security investments in an effort to curb mass shootings.

The 20 lawmakers -- 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans -- led by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, announced the package they said would "protect America's children, keep our schools safe, and reduce the threat of violence across our country."

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"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," they wrote.

The agreed-upon package includes federal grants for state to create and administer so-called "red flag" laws that allow authorities to keep firearms away from individuals found to be threats to themselves or others.

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It further funds investment in children and family mental health services, expanding mental health and supportive services in schools and access to mental and behavioral health services via telehealth.

The deal would also seek to tighten gun laws by narrowing the definition of a federally licensed firearms dealer, cracking down on straw purchasing -- the process by which someone purchases a firearm on behalf of someone who is not legally able to buy one themselves -- and requiring an investigative review period of juvenile and mental health records for people younger than 21 seeking to purchase a firearm.

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It does not, however, include a provision supported by President Joe Biden and other Democrats to raise the minimum age for purchasing semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21 years old that was included in a bill passed by the Democrat-led House on Wednesday.

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Sixty votes are needed for passage in the Senate with the split 50-50 among Democrats and Reublicans, and Vice President Kamela Harris casting the tie-breaking vote for the legislation.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he would put the measure up for a vote on the Senate floor "as soon as possible."

"After an unrelenting wave of gun-related suicides and homicides, including mass shootings, the Senate is poised to act on commonsense reforms to protect Americans where they live, where they shop and where they learn," he said. "We must move swiftly to advance this legislation because if a single life can be saved is worth the effort."

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Biden also expressed support for the package in a statement, while acknowledging it "does not do everything that I think is needed."

"With 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. "Each day that passes, more children are killed in this country: the sooner it comes to my desk, the sooner I can sign it, and the sooner we can use these measures to save lives."

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