Congress is closer than it has been in decades to passing new gun legislation A bipartisan group of senators came to a final agreement on a gun safety bill that could be the biggest breakthrough on the issue in decades of congressional gridlock.

Congress is closer than it has been in decades to passing new gun legislation

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Congress is closer than it has been in decades to passing new gun legislation. The Senate is moving forward with a narrow set of bipartisan changes aimed at stopping mass shootings like the one at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, last month. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut is the lead Democrat behind the bill.

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CHRIS MURPHY: This bill will be too little for many. It'll be too much for others. But it isn't a box-checking exercise. This bill is not window dressing. This bill is going to save lives.

CHANG: And NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell joins us now with more. Hey, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi there.

CHANG: OK. So there has been a lot of doubt that Congress would even be able to do anything in response to all these recent mass shootings. How real would you say is this breakthrough?

SNELL: Well, this really is the most significant gun safety bill in nearly 30 years, and it has really wide bipartisan support in the Senate. Ten Republicans and 10 Democrats wrote this bill, meaning they almost certainly have enough votes to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. Plus, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell both are behind this bill. So it is, you know, not as much as most Democrats and President Biden have wanted. They wanted more ambitious gun control. But Biden has urged Congress to pass this bill without delay.

CHANG: OK. So how far does this bill actually go on gun control?

SNELL: So this bill does not include things like a ban on assault weapons or universal background checks because those things just don't have enough support in Congress to pass.

CHANG: Right.

SNELL: Negotiators say this represents what can actually become law in this political climate. Lead Republican in these negotiations is Senator John Cornyn of Texas. He was booed at his state party convention last weekend for taking part in these talks. He went on the floor today to explain why this bill has GOP support and would not infringe on anyone's Second Amendment rights.

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JOHN CORNYN: So unless a person is convicted of a crime or is adjudicated mentally ill, their ability to purchase a firearm will not be impacted by this legislation.

SNELL: What this bill does have is more extensive background checks for prospective gun buyers between the ages of 18 and 21. It gives states an incentive to provide access to previously sealed juvenile records. And that's important here because the shooter in Uvalde bought his weapon shortly after turning 18. And the legislation also encourages states to enact these so-called red flag laws that would allow for a court process to remove guns from a person deemed to be a threat to themselves or to others.

CHANG: What about, like, mental health and school safety? Lawmakers have talked a lot about that. What are they doing on those fronts?

SNELL: There's more funding for telehealth programs to allow expanded access to mental health across the country. There's money for school safety and training, and there's money for community-based mental health programs. You know, Cornyn called this the single largest investment in community-based mental health in U.S. history.

CHANG: That is NPR's Kelsey Snell. Thank you so much, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thanks for having me.

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