Opinion: The Senate’s framework on guns is a sea change Opinion: The Senate framework on guns is a sea change

The announcement came as something of a surprise: Many Americans had given up hope of a significant breakthrough on this issue. The horrific shooting tragedies last month in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas were followed by nationwide anti-gun violence protests and calls for Congress to take action. But past shooting tragedies have been met, lamentably, with legislative inaction and many Americans were primed for the usual offers of “thoughts and prayers” — and not much else.
This time, they were wrong. The framework agreed to over the weekend by the 20 senators10 Democrats and 10 Republicans — is consequential. (Frameworks formulate the agreed upon outline of a deal, with details yet to be thrashed out and ambiguities yet to be clarified in legislative language.)
If crafted into legislation and passed by Congress, the framework will be the first gun violence prevention law in almost 30 years. The lawmakers who reached this agreement are offering what a majority of Americans have been seeking for many years: life-saving gun violence prevention solutions.

In an era when bipartisan comity is rare on Capitol Hill, agreement between the two sides is a very big deal. But the significance of this framework goes beyond politics and even beyond policy. Societally and culturally, it turns the page on a very dark chapter in America.

After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that claimed the lives of 20 small children and six adults, National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre made a chilling pronouncement — one that has been echoed often since that tragedy: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.”

That statement became the unofficial credo of anyone who believed in expanding access to firearms and everyone who bought into the notion that ever more powerful firearms were the solution to every problem.

The NRA, as well as other powerful gun lobby groups, doubled down on that message in the decade since Sandy Hook, propagating the myth that the only way to defend our schools, our movie theaters, shopping malls and our concert venues, is to put a firearm into the hands of every American. And indeed, access to guns has expanded in this country over the past several years, with deadly results as gun deaths rise. But with this weekend’s framework, our country for the first time in many years is taking a clear step away from that mindset.
The deal is a tangible victory for Americans tired of seeing their lives put in daily jeopardy by a gun industry that values profits over people. The framework improves multiple standards and closes loopholes that have been unaddressed since the Brady Bill was enacted nearly 30 years ago.

While there are many steps that must take place between the agreement on a framework and the enactment of a law, this deal gives the lie to the notion that the power of the gun lobby can never be checked. This can be, and must be, the first of many measures that claw back the influence of a power-drunk gun industry.

Individually, the measures in the framework are substantive. Taken together, they could prove to be transformative in reducing deaths from gun violence. Not since Jim and Sarah Brady — President Ronald Reagan’s press secretary after whom the organization I work for is named, and his wife — succeeded in getting Congress to pass the Brady Bill in 1993, have we seen this kind of progress from the United States Senate.
One of the key issues the framework addresses, the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” has been a priority for gun violence prevention organizations and domestic violence activists for decades. Federal law currently prohibits individuals who have been convicted of domestic abuse from purchasing and possessing firearms if they were married to or have a child with the victim.
But there is a glaring loophole in the law: Over 70 women are killed by an intimate partner with a firearm every month. And the presence of a gun in a home where there is a history of domestic violence leads to a fivefold increase in the risk of the woman being killed, according to research by the National Institutes of Health. The framework would make significant steps towards closing that loophole in our federal laws. It represents real progress and will save lives.
The Senate deal also includes incentives for states to create State Crisis Intervention Orders, which more commonly are known as “extreme risk laws” or “red flag laws.” These orders help ensure that law enforcement and public health officials have the tools and skills required to identify individuals at risk of harming themselves or others and from whom firearms should temporarily be removed. And these laws do so while observing due process rights and constitutional protections.
This deal moves our country towards a comprehensive gun safety regime that will help more Americans remain safe. We’ve seen that these laws work. After such a law was put into place in Indiana, suicides by firearm were reduced by 7.5%. Connecticut, the first state with a red flag law, saw a reduction in gun suicides of 13.7%.
After years of inaction, it may seem naive to believe that the status quo is actually changing. But candidates are embracing gun violence prevention because they recognize that the American people want an end to the violence. Polling backs that up, with a national survey last month finding that 88% of Americans expressed support for universal background checks, one of many common sense measures that poll high with the US public when it comes to guns.

This framework demonstrates that the hard work of the last decade — carried out doggedly by grassroots organizers, and especially Black and Brown organizers, frontline advocates, nonprofit groups, concerned families and communities — has finally led to action from those in the corridors of power.

Sunday’s announcement was met with immediate criticism from some who say that the actions proposed in the framework are not far-reaching enough. But make no mistake: This framework is a sizable achievement. We in the gun violence prevention community agree that we want strong policies and will continue to press tirelessly to end the needless gun-related bloodshed.

While it feels like we’ve been fed false hope in the past, this time is different. This framework is a welcome starting point from which we can finally make progress on one of the most challenging problems of our time.

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