Bipartisan Senate Gun Bill Already Hit a Snag Over Boyfriend Loophole, Red Flag Laws

Senate negotiators have hit a snag over provisions in the bipartisan gun deal related to the boyfriend loophole and red-flag laws, The New York Times reports.

Senate negotiators from both parties last week announced a deal that would provide funding to states that enact red-flag laws, crack down on unlicensed gun sales, and close the boyfriend loophole — married domestic abusers are banned from owning guns but romantic partners are not.

Lawmakers announced that they had lined up 10 Republican votes for the deal, meaning it could pass despite filibuster threats, but negotiators are working on the bill text in hopes of completing the legislation by the July 4 recess.

Along with the other provisions, the legislation would expand background checks to include juvenile records for some gun buyers under 21, enhance gun trafficking penalties, and provide funding for school security and mental health programs.

Boyfriend loophole:

The boyfriend loophole has been a particularly thorny subject in negotiations.

Lawmakers have not been able to pin down how to define an intimate partner.

Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, said it is “a complicated question of state statutes and state charging practices.”

“There are many people who committed domestic violence who aren’t actually charged with domestic violence — they are charged with simple assault, but they unquestionably committed an act of domestic violence,” Mr. Murphy said, adding, “We are at a pretty critical stage of the negotiation, and so I’m not going to share anything that jeopardizes our ability to land this.”

“The surface explanation seems like it would be fairly simple, but I know that as they try to reduce it to legislative text, I think it’s gotten a little bit more uncomfortable,” said South Dakota Republican John Thune.

Red-flag laws:

Senate negotiators ruled out creating a national red-flag law that allows authorities to remove guns from people who are deemed dangerous but they aimed to provide additional funding for states that already have red-flag laws on the books.

Senators are split on whether the funds should also be available to states that don’t have red-flag laws but have other violence prevention programs.

"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 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.”

"We need to support every possible way to intervene in crisis before they produce violence. And red flag laws need investment of hundreds of millions of dollars for them as an incentive but also to implement them and at the same time we can have a variety of other crisis intervention mode that help save lives," said Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal.


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