Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., speaks during a rally near Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, June 10, 2022, urging Congress to pass gun legislation. Credit: Susan Walsh

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A good, durable compromise tends to leave both sides unhappy. By that measure, in an often polarized national gun debate, a recently announced Senate compromise could be a long-awaited positive step forward.

Does it go as far as we’d like to see in terms of closing loopholes in the existing background check system and restricting some gun and ammunition sales? No. But the framework of this agreement between a bipartisan group of 20 senators offers a chance for some meaningful action after a longstanding congressional impasse on addressing gun violence.

“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,” the senators, including Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, said in a joint statement on Sunday. “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.”

The full group includes 10 Republicans and 10 members of the Democratic caucus (King is an independent who caucuses with the Democrats). Collins, a Republican, was part of a smaller bipartisan group of senators initially working on this issue in recent weeks. The number 10 is particularly significant, as it is the number of Republicans needed (along with all 50 Democrats) to overcome a filibuster in the Senate.

According to the senators, this framework includes support for states to institute laws that work to keep guns out of the hands of people determined to be a danger to themselves or others (known as red flag laws), targeting illegal gun trafficking, investment in mental health services for families and children, strengthening the existing gun prohibition for convicted domestic abusers and people subject to a domestic violence restraining order, support for school mental health services, clarifying who counts as a federally licensed firearms dealer (and must therefore conduct background checks), school safety funding, an enhanced review process for people under the age of 21 buying guns and telehealth investments.

“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,” President Joe Biden said in a statement on Sunday. “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.”

We’ll say it again: It is possible to strengthen America’s gun laws to help keep guns out of the hands of people who have demonstrated that they are a risk to themselves or others, and to do so while respecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners. This agreement proves that. For instance, it seeks to better address gun trafficking and better prevent domestic abusers from possessing guns. These are examples of bad guys with guns, to borrow a phrase from opponents of gun control measures.

It is important to emphasize that Sunday’s announced framework is not yet final. The actual legislation still needs to be drafted, and there will be plenty of pressure on the 20 senators to back out. A key now will be this group holding firm, and other senators joining them in what is a very reasonable effort to find areas of compromise after years of inaction.

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The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...