Bipartisan Senate bill on gun violence stalls over red flag laws, 'boyfriend' loophole

The bipartisan Senate group is hoping to introduce something that the full chamber can vote on before going to recess on June 27.

Updated: June 16, 2022 - 5:01pm

The top negotiators on a bipartisan Senate deal spent hours Wednesday attempting to work out differences that are keeping both sides from moving forward with the framework deal.

As of Thursday evening, the negotiators had publicly provided no material updates. 

Over the weekend, 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans announced they had come to an agreement for a framework of proposals targeting gun violence, following a series of mass shootings across the country, include a May 24 attack at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school in which 19 students and two teaches were killed. 

The senators have since been trying to find legislative solutions to curb such violence in ways in which both parties can promptly agree – in response to Americans' call for action.

However, two issues are reportedly holding up negotiations – the so-called "boyfriend loophole" for gun ownership and a measure that would incentivize states to implement violence prevention programs.

Closing the "boyfriend loophole" would address the issue that while married partners who perpetrate domestic abuse are barred from purchasing guns unmarried partners are not.

Negotiators are reportedly struggling with how to identify "boyfriend" or partner in an unmarried relationship.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the GOP's top negotiator, says if the group can "settle these two issues," he believes members will be "on our way" to a final floor vote.

"This is a very tight timeline to land some very serious issues," said Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, the Democrats' top  negotiator.

Senators are on an increasingly tight timeline because the chamber goes on recess for two weeks starting June 27. 

According to Cornyn, the question about prevention programs comes down to whether states have other sorts of violence prevention programs such as mental health programs, veterans' courts and assisted-outpatient-treatment programs.

Some Republicans senators also seem concerned about agreeing to any measure that would appear to further restrict Second Amendment rights, ahead of the November elections in which the GOP could win the House and Senate.

"Most of the discussion was around the red flag issue, and that is my greatest concern as well – that we do it right," said North Dakota Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer. "I think we're more interested in the red wave than we are in red flags, quite honestly, as Republicans. And we have a pretty good opportunity to do that."

Red flag laws are designed to temporarily confiscate weapons from individuals deemed by a court to be a threat to themselves or others. Some Republicans worry about the potential of overlooking due process in implementing such legislation.

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