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Senators, 5 Democrats and 5 Republicans, negotiate ways to find a gun deal


We turn now to Connecticut's Richard Blumenthal, who's one of the senators participating in these virtual negotiations. Senator, I understand you've been focusing on red flag laws in your conversations with colleagues, Republican colleagues, like Lindsey Graham and John Cornyn. Has progress been made on taking guns away from people whose family members maybe think they might commit a crime?

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Lindsey Graham and I have made tremendous progress over the last 3 1/2 years. We actually have written a statute that we hope will have broad bipartisan consensus because it provides incentives to state - for states to do what 19 of them have already done. Red flag laws save lives. The judges, law enforcement, everyone involved tells us so. I'm really hoping that we can get to 60 votes and that our bipartisan group of five Republicans, five Democrats will propose some form of a red flag statute.

MARTÍNEZ: Senator, you mentioned you've had - you've made progress in the last 3 1/2 years. Has anything happened, say, in the last three days that has ramped up the desire to make something work?

BLUMENTHAL: The conversations certainly have been more specific and definite, more focused on what the particular provisions would be of a federal law that would encourage states to separate people from guns when they say they're going to kill people, whether themselves or others. The Parkland shooter practically took out an ad in the newspaper. He called law enforcement, and yet they had no power to stop him. So I think there's a realization in the wake of the shock of the most recent massacre in Uvalde that something needs to be done on that issue, but also background checks, safe storage of weapons, possibly school security and mental health.

MARTÍNEZ: Falling short, though, Senator, of a federal law, a national law - if it indeed falls to states, would that be enough for you?

BLUMENTHAL: I would love to go farther. But we need to recognize and be very clear-eyed because the history here is that interest wanes, that Republicans abandon these efforts. And I believe this is a put up or shut up time for Republicans. They need to show up for work and do their job, vote for commonsense, sensible measures. Again, by no means - as much as I would like to see, for example, a ban on assault weapons, but we simply don't have 60 votes for it.

MARTÍNEZ: Are there any other specific spaces beyond red flag laws right now that appear, at this moment, to be openings for compromise?

BLUMENTHAL: There are a number of areas where states are supporting compromise and where we are doing it as well. For example, safe storage, where people can be either rewarded through tax deductions or also mandated and probably some combination to make sure that people store their weapons safely - so-called Ethan's law, named after a young teenager in Connecticut who unfortunately and tragically was killed playing with a firearm in a neighbor's home because it was unsecurely (ph) stored. So that measure, improving background checks by including more information and so forth, is very much to be sought here.

MARTÍNEZ: Senator, I've been thinking about this for a while now. Even if Democrats get the GOP to make big concessions, many Americans won't think it's enough until there's a major shift in this nation's gun culture. How realistic is it to fundamentally change the way the Second Amendment is interpreted?

BLUMENTHAL: First, my goal is to save lives. And I'm very clear-eyed about the limitations of what we're doing in this compromise. But the sooner we act, the sooner we can save some lives. A hundred people or more every day are losing their lives because of this epidemic of gun violence. Second, changing the culture is happening, you know? There are now grassroots groups. There's a groundswell, a real political movement that didn't exist when I started in this effort literally 30 years ago as the state attorney general of Connecticut. And what we've seen since Sandy Hook is the rise of Brady, Giffords, Everytown, Moms Demand Action, Students Demand Action, Sandy Hook Promise, Newtown Action Alliance and more. And so I think we're seeing a change in the culture and a political movement to put gun violence prevention on the ballot this November.

MARTÍNEZ: But there are going to be areas of the country that are going to be dug in no matter what.

BLUMENTHAL: I think we will hear from the country - I hope we will - in the votes that are cast this November.

MARTÍNEZ: Richard Blumenthal is a senator from Connecticut. Senator, thanks.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.