(WASHINGTON) — In an indication of possible movement on stalled gun control efforts in the wake of the Texas school shooting, a bipartisan group of nine senators – four Republicans and five Democrats – led by Connecticut Democrat Sen. Chris Murphy, met for about a half-hour Thursday to discuss what is possible in reforming gun safety laws.
“This is a good start,” Murphy told reporters afterward, indicating that red flag laws and expanded background checks for commercial gun sales were “on our list” to consider during a weeklong recess.
The group is also looking at a GOP bill that was blocked Wednesday – the School Safety Act – that would codify current practice put in place during the Trump administration that created a clearinghouse of best practices for hardening schools against threats.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the group had broken down assignments and would be meeting via Zoom over the recess.
“I thought the meeting was very constructive and went well. We identified some issues and we’ll continue to work over the recess, and I am hopeful that we can come together on a package that will make a difference,” Collins told ABC News.
In a significant development, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell encouraged the bipartisan negotiations.
ABC News Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott confirmed he met with Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn Thursday morning, giving his political blessing for Cornyn, a top ally, to meet with Democrats to see if there is a bipartisan path forward.
Democrats need the support of 10 Republicans to get advance any legislation toward a final vote and possible passage
Cornyn returned to Washington Thursday having seen the horror in his home state and, speaking on the Senate floor, said he is ready to work on finding ways to try to prevent another tragedy.
“I’m not interested in making a political statement. I’m not interested in the same old tired talking points,” he said. “I’m actually interested in what we can do to make the terrible events that occurred in Uvalde less likely in the future.”
South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and Connecticut Democrat Sen. Richard Blumenthal emerged from the basement of the Capitol where the group met to tout their bipartisan bill that would incentivize states through federal grants to implement so-called red flag laws,
“The complicating and challenging part of this statute is to set the standard, for example, what kind of showing has to be made to justify separating someone from a gun?” Blumenthal said of the challenge in crafting these types of laws, on the books in 19 states, that permit law enforcement to temporarily seize weapons — via court order — from those individuals who might be a danger to themselves or others.
Those requests typically come from family members, but Maine has a “yellow flag” law that puts the onus on medical professionals to determine when an individual would be a danger that would warrants guns being temporarily taken.
Sen. Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat, said he attended the meeting because as a gun enthusiast, his Democratic colleagues “wanted to include that perspective as we try to figure out if there’s some world of possible.”
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said he and GOP Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who also attended the meeting, would look at how they might update their background check bill, “looking at anything that’s happened” between 2013, when the bill failed at the hands of most GOP senators, and now.
Murphy is slated to work with that bipartisan duo.
Toomey called today’s meeting “an organizational meeting,” as the bipartisan group seeks to find common ground. “We’re getting started to try to figure out if there’s a path to getting to a consensus, and we’ll see where it takes us.”
Sounding a positive note as he left the meeting, Toomey said, “There’s a possibility it might work this time.”
The group emphasized that they have set no dates for completion of their assignments, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer reiterated Thursday that the group had a finite period of time, roughly 10 days — putting the time for a compromise to emerge at roughly just after the recess ends in a week.
“There is a powerful, emotional element to the red-flag statute that gives it momentum, especially after Uvalde — like Buffalo — where the shooter evidently indicated very strong signs that he was dangerous,” Blumenthal said, adding, “I’m more hopeful than ever before.”
Blumenthal indicated that the group is aware they have limited time to strike a deal.
“There is a real sense of urgency right now in this moment. We simply need to seize it,” said Blumenthal, indicating that this “Sandy Hook moment” was a particular impetus.
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