There are lines Sen. Mitt Romney says he would not cross as a bipartisan group of senators works to draft legislation from a framework on gun safety measures unveiled this week.
“Neither I nor my Republican colleagues are (going) to vote for something which infringes on Second Amendment rights of our citizens. This is not a piece of legislation which takes guns away or limits the rights of people to purchase firearms. It doesn’t make assault weapons illegal or make large magazines illegal,” he said during a conference call with Utah reporters Wednesday.
“We’re basically not going to support, if you will, a gun bill that infringes on the rights to own guns.”
Romney, R-Utah, is among a group of 10 Republican and 10 Democratic senators who announced a framework for gun safety legislation this past Sunday. The deal includes resources for states to implement red flag laws, investment in mental health treatment and school security, and an added level of scrutiny for gun buyers under the age of 21.
There is still a lot of negotiation and drafting to go on since the framework was agreed upon, he said, adding it’s unlikely the Senate will vote on a bill next week. He said it’s going to take more time to write the legislation and give senators time to review it.
Still, he said with support from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., he believes that the Senate will end up with a bill that improves the safety of schools and protects the rights of gun owners. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said earlier this week he wants to get the legislation to the floor as soon as possible.
Romney said all of the details have not been nailed down and “there’s a long way to go.”
One of the areas still under discussion relates to ensuring due process in any state laws that might restrict the ability for a person who is considered a danger to themselves or the community from having a gun, he said. Red flag or extreme risk laws allow police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves.
Senators, he said, are also talking about what kinds of red flag laws or gun safety programs would qualify for federal funding.
States that don’t have red flag laws would still be able to tap into federal funding if they have a crisis intervention center or another program that would make it more difficult for troubled people to commit violence, Romney said.
Shortly after the deadly Uvalde, Texas, school shooting last month, Romney said red flag laws “make a lot of sense” and states would be “wise” to adopt them.
The Republican-controlled Utah Legislature has spurned red flag laws. But Romney said the state’s SafeUT app — which provides real-time crisis intervention for students, parents and educators through live chat and a confidential tip line — should qualify for a federal grant.
“That’s the current understanding,” he said. “We’ll see what the final legislation looks like.”
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, has not taken a position on the proposal, saying earlier this week he looks forward to reviewing the legislation.
“I will always stand on the side of the Second Amendment, law-abiding Americans, due process, and justice,” he said.
The House last week passed a bill banning the sale of semiautomatic weapons to those under the age of 21 and banning the sale of large-capacity magazines. Utah’s four GOP congressmen voted against it. The measure doesn’t appear headed anywhere in the Senate.
Earlier this month, Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, introduced legislation that would redirect unused American Rescue Plan funds to help identify and implement “evidence-based” school safety measures. Of the $122 billion appropriated to K-12 schools in last year’s $1.9 trillion relief bill, about 93% remains unused, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, is among two dozen Republican cosponsors of the bill.