Senate Panel To Consider 4 Gun Control Measures

The bills that would restrict the right to own and sell some guns will be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday. It's the most progress gun legislation has made in nearly two decades, in the aftermath of the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

On a Thursday, it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. Today, senators consider the details of four gun control measures.

INSKEEP: Taken together, they're considered the most aggressive attempts to change federal gun laws since 1994. That's when Congress passed a ban on assault weapons, which has long since expired.

MONTAGNE: Nineteen years after that ban, a series of shootings has built momentum for more change.

INSKEEP: Although the bills in committee today are a long way from becoming law. NPR's Ailsa Chang reports.

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: The bills are like four moving parts right now. One of them makes it a federal crime if you buy a gun for someone who legally can't. Another beefs up funding to make schools safer. The third bans assault weapons, and limits the size of gun magazines. And finally, the fourth - that's the one getting the most buzz on the Hill this week - background checks.

In Tucson on Wednesday, former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords made a point to appear outside the grocery store where she was shot in the head two years ago.

GABRIELLE GIFFORDS: Be bold. Be courageous. Please support background checks.

CHANG: What's the big deal about background checks? Well, the issue is which gun buyers will have to get one; and will records of all their purchases be kept? New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and other Democrats want background checks for all gun buyers, not just the ones who purchase from licensed dealers. Many gun rights groups don't like that idea.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, from South Carolina, says really, the place to start is to bulk up the database of people found to be mentally ill.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: You know, we've got thousands of people out there who have had their day in different courts and have - found to be dangerous to themselves and others; that the system doesn't know about, when it comes to gun purchases.

CHANG: Graham's proposed legislation is not among those to be considered today.

Ailsa Chang, NPR News, the Capitol.

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