US Senate gun Bill talks hit snag over mental illness, abuse provisions

A string of mass shootings has prompted US lawmakers to try to overcome decades of inaction over gun legislation. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US Senate negotiators, racing to settle details of bipartisan gun legislation, on Wednesday (June 15) struggled to resolve serious disagreements over federal funding of state "red flag" programmes and the breadth of a plan for keeping guns out of the hands of those prone to domestic violence.

A string of mass shootings has prompted Democratic and Republican lawmakers to line up behind gun-violence legislation that would overcome decades of inaction.

Lawmakers hope to get it passed this month. But Senator John Cornyn, lead Republican in the effort, has raised concerns over a provision to fund state "red flag" laws allowing authorities to temporarily take guns away from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others.

Cornyn's home state of Texas does not have such a law and is seen as unlikely to enact one. He wants the federal funding to cover other efforts as well, such as outpatient "crisis intervention programmes" for people suffering from mental illness.

Senators and aides have not said how much federal funding it at stake.

Lawmakers are also at odds over an effort to close the so-called "boyfriend loophole," which allows authorities to block abusive spouses from buying firearms, but does not cover people who are not married.

Christian Heyne, a vice-president at the Brady gun control organisation, called that "a loophole that defies logic."

Lawmakers have been unable to settle on who should be included in the provision, such as two people who only had one date, for example, or only those in a longer-duration relationship.

Despite these differences, the lead Democratic negotiator, Senator Chris Murphy, told reporters that lawmakers remain committed to translating their framework deal into a Bill that can be passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden.

"I have confidence we'll get there," Murphy said.

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