Americans in communities where lives have been forever changed by gun violence reacted with a glimmer of hope but more than a hint of frustration to the bipartisan deal reached by Senate negotiators on Sunday.
Any deal is better than no deal, many said, but so much more could be done.
If approved in the Senate and the House, the deal would be the first major piece of gun safety legislation passed by Congress in years. It includes a modest extension of background checks for gun buyers under the age of 21 and funding for states to enact so-called red flag laws, which allow authorities to temporarily seize weapons from those deemed dangerous. It also includes funding for mental health and increased school safety programs.
Yet for many Americans in places like Buffalo; Orlando, Florida; and Uvalde, Texas, which have seen the irrevocable toll of mass shootings, the proposed deal doesn’t go far enough.
Leonard Sandoval, whose 10-year-old grandson, Xavier James Lopez, died at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, would like to see a ban on semi-automatic weapons.
He would also like to see more mass shooters trained nationally to avoid another disastrous police response like what appeared to have happened in Uvalde. “Had they trained those officers better and given them better equipment, maybe not so many children would have died,” he said.
Monica Muñoz Martinez, historian and recent MacArthur colleague, lives in Austin, Texas, but is from Uvalde and has close ties to that community. After recently seeing Uvalde’s families testify before Congress, she said the agreement was disappointing.
“This proposed legislation will not restore Texas’ sense of security,” she said. “It’s hard to celebrate legislation that falls so far behind what families in Uvalde and Buffalo asked for.”
But for some citizen groups helping Uvalde, a predominantly Mexican-American community west of San Antonio, even minor gun control measures on background checks are a step in the right direction.
“I think we’re going to take what we can get now, since it’s a lot more than we thought we’d get,” said Rodolfo Rosales, a state director with the Texas branch of the League of United Latin American Citizens.
“But make no mistake,” he said, “we need a lot more gun control.” He added that “it won’t bring back those babies’ lives, but it’s a start.”
Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio, who prayed with the families of the victims and urged the tightening of gun laws shortly after the shooting, said in a statement Sunday the agreement was encouraging.
“The framework, as it has been outlined, should have broad support from elected officials and the public,” he said, adding that “anything that can promote peace in our midst should be pursued.” He also praised Texas Senator John Cornyn, a Republican, for working with Democrats and saying that compromises like this could help unite the country.
In Orlando on Sunday — the sixth anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting — Ricardo Negron, 33, a voting rights activist and survivor of the attack, said he had doubts about the possible deal over gun security measures.
“It’s good to see them going somewhere,” he said. “But on the other hand, it’s just the bare minimum of the bare minimum.” Mr. Negron had hoped for legislation that would raise the age limit for purchasing military-style rifles.
But for Mr Negron, this kind of deal has been going on for a long time. “It’s sad that it has taken such a heavy toll on them to even consider doing this,” he said of lawmakers.
Omar Delgado, 50, was particularly optimistic about the mental health component of the agreement. He was one of the police officers who responded to the Pulse shooting and has since had post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of an hours-long confrontation with the gunman.
“I’ve always said that if you want to change something, we have to start at the root of the problem,” said Mr. Delgado. “If it helps with mental health, I’m all for it.”
He also said he was pleased with the increased funding for school security. “If you have more trained people, more trained officers, that will deter a lot of the violence,” said Mr. Delgado, although he added that it would not completely resolve the issue of gun violence in schools. “What shall?” he asked. “I wish I knew that answer.”
Zeneta Everhart, whose son, Zaire Goodman, was shot and wounded in the Buffalo attack, said the deal was a “big step”. She was encouraged that lawmakers “have a civilized conversation to find out how they could help the citizens of this country.”
Ms. Everhart testified before lawmakers last week about the need to review U.S. gun laws. “It’s a small win,” she said of the deal on Sunday. “It’s not all we want.”
Today she said she was celebrating. And tomorrow? “We’re going back to work,” she said.
Frances Robles reporting contributed.