Sen. Stabenow on potential gun restrictions: ‘This agreement is going to save lives’

Debbie Stabenow is excited at the prospect of Congress passing its first firearm restrictions in more than two decades.

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow at Mackinac Policy Conference in 2019.

After a recent string of mass shootings at schools, grocery stores and city tourist districts, the Senate is again discussing ways to limit gun violence.

Congress has not passed significant gun control legislation in over two decades.

Now a bipartisan group of U.S. senators are working on solutions they say will satisfy Democrats without rankling the Republicans’ pro-gun base.

Michigan’s senior U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow is part of those negotiations. She says there are several key provisions “that will save lives” in the framework of proposals, including provisions for red-flag laws that would provide support for states to intervene, with due process, when there is a concern by a relative or others that someone poses a danger to themselves. There are also domestic violence protections and a gun licensure provision.

She adds “transformative investments” for the first time will fund community behavioral health clinics in a more sustainable way. “Not with grants that stop and start but as part of the health care system, including 24-hour psychiatric crisis services, so that the police know that if they are interacting with someone they can take them to get help not just sitting in a jail or sitting in the emergency room.”

Stabenow is working to “lock down all of the language on the mental health provisions,” she says. “And we’re just about there. And my colleagues are working on the gun-safety provisions and other provisions. Our goal is to get this written and really locked down this week. We want to move as quickly as possible.”

The proposals don’t include reforms such as a ban on assault weapons and expanded background checks that would eliminate loopholes, but Stabenow says this is the best lawmakers can do to ensure it garners the necessary amount of votes to pass.

“Certainly I would support a ban on assault weapons and other provisions,” she says. “But when you govern in a democracy, and you have to get a majority of the votes that it takes to pass something for us in the United States Senate, as it operates right now, it takes 60 votes to do that. And we have people of goodwill on both sides of the aisle that have been working together. And this is meaningful and is absolutely the best that we can get done for this moment. But certainly there’s more to do.”

On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) signaled he would support the agreement on gun restrictions as long as it stayed similar to the initial framework proposed by lawmakers.

On Wednesday, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said he had “concerns” over provisions that would bolster red-flag laws and prevent domestic abusers from being able to purchase firearms.

Listen: Sen. Stabenow breaks down the provisions in the bipartisan agreement on gun safety.


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  • Russ McNamara
    Russ McNamara is the host of All Things Considered for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news to the station’s loyal listeners. He's been an avid listener of WDET since he moved to metro Detroit in 2002.