Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday that he is “comfortable” with the contours of a bipartisan deal on gun legislation and will back it if the measure “ends up reflecting what the framework indicates.”
“I’m comfortable with the framework and if the legislation ends up reflecting what the framework indicates, I’ll be supportive,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday at his weekly press conference.
The powerful Republican’s support would greatly enhance the prospects of the legislation passing the Senate. Because the Senate is currently split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, his support has tended to be an indicator of whether there are sufficient GOP votes to defeat a filibuster.
The remarks Tuesday represent McConnell’s clearest endorsement of the deal struck between Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
A centerpiece of the proposed deal is substantial resources for states to implement “red flag” laws, which allow individuals like police or family members to petition courts to keep firearms away from people deemed a risk to themselves or others.
Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia have red flag laws on the books. The new provisions are aimed at increasing that number and improving their implementation.
The agreement also contains enhanced background checks for people aged 18 to 21, opening the door to accessing juvenile records as part of a check to determine whether a person can buy a gun. And it seeks to close the so-called “boyfriend loophole” to keep guns away from dating partners convicted of abuse.
Senators are crafting the legislation, aiming to finish the text this week so the chamber can vote on a bill next week, before leaving town for two weeks for a pre-planned recess.
Inside the closed-door Senate Republican lunch meeting Tuesday, Cornyn presented a poll of 1,000 U.S. households with gun owners that found 79 percent support “red flag” laws, 86 percent support closing the boyfriend loophole, and 87 percent support including juvenile records in the background check system. The presentation was shared with NBC News by a source familiar with the meeting, who was granted anonymity to provide it.
“Support for the provisions of the framework is off the charts, overwhelming,” McConnell told reporters after the meeting. “I think if this framework becomes the actual piece of legislation, it’s a step forward, a step forward on a bipartisan basis, and further demonstrates to the American people that we can come together, which we have done from time to time on things like infrastructure and postal reform, to make progress for the county.”
Kate Santaliz contributed.