WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Maine's two senators are part of a bipartisan group that just agreed on a new gun safety proposal.
On Sunday, June 12, the offices of Maine Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, issued a news release, indicating a group of 12 senators had negotiated an agreement for a plan to help save American lives.
This comes after a number of deadly mass shootings last month, including an incident in Uvalde, Texas that left 19 children and two teachers dead at an elementary school and a racially motived attack at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.
Collins said this agreement is a "step in the right direction," she told NEWS CENTER Maine on Sunday. Collins said there was more urgency between the group of lawmakers to come up with legislation compared to the weeks after previous mass shootings.
Of all measures the senators agreed upon, Collins said she was particularly involved in three. First, incentivizing states to pass their own red flag laws, and second, strengthening mental health programs and behavioral health clinics throughout every state. Third, Collins said the country needs to crack down on straw purchasing.
"That’s when a criminal uses someone who does not have a criminal record to buy guns for him or her," Collins said via zoom. "And then those guns are used in the commission of crimes or they’re often trafficked."
The other senators working alongside Collins and King included Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut; John Cornyn, R-Texas; Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina; Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona; Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut; Roy Blunt, R-Missouri; Cory Booker, D-New Jersey; Richard Burr, R-North Carolina; Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana; Chris Coons, D-Deleware; Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina; Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico; Mark Kelly, D-Arizona; Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia; Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Mitt Romney, R-Utah; Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan; and Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania.
Last month, King held a virtual press conference in response to the mass shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo.
"Now it's important to observe that no one law will necessarily solve all these problems, nor can we solve them through legislation purely, but we can lower the odds, we can improve the situation and, of course, as many people have pointed out, we also have to pay attention to mental health issues," King said.
One provision included in the agreement was based on a bill introduced by King and Florida's Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott that encourages states and recognized tribes to adopt their own red flag laws.
"There has to be a right to have a due process and go before a judge and have an independent judgment about whether you are a danger to yourself or others and therefore should not be able to keep or obtain a gun. I think the concept is absolutely important, given these kinds of situations that we saw [In Uvalde] and [in Buffalo]," King said during the press conference.
The group of senators issued the following statement:
“Today, we are announcing a commonsense, bipartisan proposal to protect America’s children, keep our schools safe, and reduce the threat of violence across our country. 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. Our plan increases needed mental health resources, improves school safety and support for students, and helps ensure dangerous criminals and those who are adjudicated as mentally ill can’t purchase weapons. Most importantly, our plan saves lives while also protecting the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans. We look forward to earning broad, bipartisan support and passing our commonsense proposal into law.”
Another provision Collins mentioned was strengthening the review process for people between the ages of 18 and 21 who are trying to buy guns.
“If you look at the recent mass shootings, it tends to be a troubled male between the ages of 18 and 21 and, who comes from a dysfunctional family and that seems to be the pattern so I think extra scrutiny needs to be given to people between the ages of 18 and 21," she added.
According to the press release, the proposal includes the following measures:
- Support for state crisis intervention orders. It would give resources to states and tribes to help them create and implement laws that would make sure individuals considered a danger to themselves or others could not have deadly weapons.
- Investment in children and family mental health services. It would expand the community behavioral health center model nationwide and allow for investments to increase access to mental health and suicide prevention programs.
- Protections for victims of domestic violence. It would ensure convicted domestic violence abusers and those with domestic violence restraining orders are included in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
- Funding for school-based mental health and supportive services. It would invest in programs to expand mental health and supportive services at schools.
- Funding for school safety resources. It would invest in programs to implement safety measures at both primary and secondary schools. It would also support school violence prevention efforts and help train school personnel and students.
- Clarification of definition of federally licensed firearms dealer. It would crack down on people who illegally evade licensing requirements.
- Telehealth investments. It would help increase access to mental and behavioral health services for kids and their families via telehealth.
- Under 21 enhanced review process. It would require an investigative period to review health records for buyers under 21 years of age.
- Penalties for straw purchasing. It would crack down on people who illegally straw purchase and traffic guns.
Unlike previous efforts to pass gun reform legislation, Collins said having ten Republicans already working with this bipartisan group means the bill can be passed with 60 votes and head to the President's desk.
"We have a real problem. But if we can get this signed into law, it will help to reduce the violence using guns, it’s not a cure-all. There’s still going to be violence using other weapons and using guns, but it is a positive step forward and I’ve worked really hard on this and I’m delighted that our efforts have come to fruition," she added.
President Biden's office also issued a statement in response to this agreement:
"I want to thank Senator Chris Murphy and the members of his bipartisan group—especially Senators Cornyn, Sinema, and Tillis—for their tireless work to produce this proposal. Obviously, it does not do everything that I think is needed, but it reflects important steps in the right direction and would be the most significant gun safety legislation to pass Congress in decades. With bipartisan support, there are no excuses for delay, and no reason why it should not quickly move through the Senate and the House. 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."
This proposal will head to the House and Senate.