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The Senate passes a gun control bill and sends it to the House

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

It took mass killings in Uvalde and in Buffalo, along with countless other victims of mass shootings, for a long-sought breakthrough on gun safety measures in the Senate.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The yeas are 65. The nays are 33. The motion to concur with an amendment is agreed to.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Sixty-five votes there, so it's bipartisan - a lot of Democrats, some Republicans. And now the modest gun safety bill goes to the House for a vote that is expected later today.

FADEL: NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell is following it all. Hi, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi there. Good morning.

FADEL: Good morning. So Congress has been unable to pass gun legislation for decades. What was different about this bill?

SNELL: Well, lawmakers I talked to said the biggest difference this time was that there was huge public pressure to get something done on guns. You know, they talked about the enormous grief and anger people felt after the shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo. The Uvalde shooting in particular, where 19 children and two teachers were killed in an elementary school, really drove negotiators to the table. You know, another difference was that the negotiators were very narrowly focused from the outset, and then they fine-tuned the policy to reach a deal.

Now, the bill includes expanded background checks for gun-buyers under 21 with potentially longer waiting periods for those buyers. There are new penalties for illegal straw purchases, grants for crisis intervention, including red flag laws that allow guns to be removed from people who are deemed to be a threat to themselves and others. And there's also money for school safety and mental health programs and gun ownership restrictions for people who have been convicted of domestic abuse.

FADEL: Now, gun rights groups like the NRA are opposing this bill. How are Republicans who usually support the NRA responding?

SNELL: You know, there were 15 Republicans who voted for the bill, and they basically all talked about this as legislation that does not infringe on Second Amendment rights. This is how Texas Republican John Cornyn explained it yesterday.

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JOHN CORNYN: Law-abiding citizens exercising their Second Amendment rights are not a threat to public safety. But there are problems when people who are - have mental challenges or who are criminals get access to them.

SNELL: You know, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also voted for the bill, and he made a very similar argument in his statement when he was supporting the bill.

FADEL: Now, President Biden gave a national address earlier this month calling for Congress to go much further than this bill does - a ban on assault weapons, universal background checks. None of that's in the bill, but Democrats are supporting it. Tell us more about that.

SNELL: Yeah. Every Senate Democrat voted for it, and President Biden encouraged Congress to move swiftly on this package of policies. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised to bring it to a vote on the floor later today. And most people I have spoken with really do expect it to pass with strong support from Democrats. Chris Murphy was a lead Democrat in the negotiations, and he has repeatedly said that he wanted to get something done that could pass and that could make an impact.

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CHRIS MURPHY: This bill is a compromise. It doesn't do everything I want. But what we are doing will save thousands of lives without violating anyone's Second Amendment rights.

SNELL: Now, prominent gun safety groups also backed the legislation, and they're calling it an important step, so it looks like it is on a path to passage.

FADEL: NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell, thanks so much.

SNELL: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.