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‘Like moving deck chairs on the Titanic’: mixed local reactions to Senate gun control deal

Eileen Ryan held a sign that read “Stop The Guns Now” while attending the March for Our Lives rally in Christopher Columbus Park Saturday.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

A bipartisan agreement struck by Senate dealmakers on proposed gun safety measures was met with mixed reactions from local advocates and members of the state’s congressional delegation Sunday.

The proposal, which falls short of gun control legislation passed by the House Wednesday, is intended to pass muster in a deeply divided Senate. It was criticized by some local advocates for failing to stanch the gun violence plaguing the country because it did not require universal background checks or a ban on AR-15-style semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity magazines.

“This compromise is like moving deck chairs on the Titanic while there’s a gaping hole in the hull,” said John Rosenthal, the co-founder of Stop Handgun Violence, in an interview. “It’s a Band-Aid on a broken bone.”

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Steve Crawford, a spokesman for the Massachusetts branch of the American Federation of Teachers, cautioned on whether the legislation will make a difference.

“It’s too early to be optimistic that Congress can get a meaningful bill passed in two weeks that will stem the tide of school shootings - especially considering they ignored the 118 school shootings that occurred over the past four years,” Crawford said in a statement.

Jaylin Gemmel, 19 who helped organize Saturday’s March For Our Lives rally in Boston, said she supported the package but had concerns about some provisions, such as increased money for school security.

“This package would not have stopped the shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, so it’s not enough,” Gemmel said.

However, she said, “It feels like a good first step.”

On Sunday, a group of 10 Democratic and 10 Republican senators announced they had reached an agreement for a bipartisan framework for new gun safety measures that could be voted into law quickly.

The deal comes a day after nationwide protests demanding action on gun control following more than 200 mass shootings this year, including a brutal attack on an Uvalde, Texas, elementary school that left 19 students and two teachers dead.

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The proposed compromise would make the juvenile records of gun buyers under age 21 available when they undergo background check, bolster school safety and mental health programs, and require more people who sell guns to obtain federal dealers’ licenses.

It would also offer money to states for “red flag” laws intended to make it easier for authorities to temporarily take guns from people considered potentially violent.

The House’s legislation would be more extensive. It would increase the legal age to buy semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21 and prohibit the sale of ammunition magazines with a capacity of more than 15 rounds.

A few members of Massachusetts’ all-Democratic congressional delegation indicated Sunday that they would support the Senate compromise.

“The bipartisan gun safety framework is a good start and finally breaks the logjam so we can begin to address the crisis of gun violence,” Senator Edward Markey said in a statement. “Now more Republicans must step forward, reject the NRA’s money and influence, and support efforts to further prevent shootings and save lives.”

Representative Lori Trahan called the deal a “critical step forward” to protect children and communities from gun violence.

“It’s not perfect and I’ll keep working to achieve the standard Massachusetts has set, but this ends nearly 30 years of Washington’s inaction on gun violence,” she said in a statement.

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But her House colleague, Representative Jake Auchincloss, who served as a Marine, expressed frustration with the stances of many Republicans on the issue.

“This deal can save lives, but it grants credence to the GOP’s deranged focus on turning schools into fortresses,” Auchincloss said. “With tremendous frustration, I will vote yes. if this makes it back to the House, and then I’ll continue to fight to get weapons of war off our streets.”

In a video posted online, Representative Katherine Clark said the proposed legislation could help save lives and reduce gun violence.

She noted that the announcement of the deal coincided with the anniversary of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Florida, where 49 people were massacred in the deadliest attack on the LGBTQ community in the nation’s history.

“Let’s honor those that lost their lives at the Pulse nightclub, and all the victims of gun violence in this country by making sure these bills become law,” Clark said.

Ari Kane, 20, another organizer of Boston’s March For Our Lives rally Saturday, said she supported the agreement, especially the provision that increased background checks for gun purchasers under age 21.

“It’s sort of a bittersweet moment for me because it shows the power of our organizing, and I think it motivates me to continue in this fight because I know that organizing works,” Kane said. “But it really shows how far we have to go.”

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The proposals fall far short of what is needed to stop mass shootings, argued Rosenthal, who helped establish Stop Handgun Violence almost 30 years ago.

His group was famous for its massive signs calling for gun control that overlooked the Massachusetts Turnpike near Fenway Park.

“They require a license to hunt animals, and they require a limit on the number of rounds ... to protect the duck and deer populations,” Rosenthal said. “But they do not require a license or a background check to hunt humans, and there is no limit on the number of rounds to kill humans and outgun cops.

“What is the point of adding information to a background check system, if not everyone has to get a background check?” Rosenthal said.

He said there needs to be a background check and renewable licenses for guns like those used for automobiles, he said. Semiautomatic rifles such as the AR-15 and large-capacity ammunition magazines must be banned.

Those weapons are “designed to kill cops who have to reload their service weapons, and to kill as many children in elementary schools, or college students at their universities, or kids in a movie theater, without having to reload.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.



John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com. Alexander Thompson can be reached at alexander.thompson@globe.com