▶ Watch Video: Bipartisan gun bill clears key vote in Senate

Washington — The Senate is expected Thursday to advance a bipartisan bill reforming the nation’s gun laws, moving the plan that aims to curb gun violence one step closer to final passage in the upper chamber.

At least 10 Republicans — the key number of GOP senators needed for legislation to move forward in the evenly divided Senate — are likely to join with their Democratic colleagues in supporting the bill. Fourteen Republicans backed an initial procedural step earlier in this week, inspiring optimism from Senate Democratic leaders that lawmakers are poised to enact the most significant update to the nation’s gun laws in nearly three decades.

“I am pleased Congress is on the path to take meaningful action to address gun violence for the first time in nearly 30 years,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “This bill is real progress. It will save lives.”

Schumer is aiming for the Senate to approve the 80-page measure, called the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, before the end of the week, when members will depart Washington for a two-week recess.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, has pledged the House will swiftly take up the firearms bill once it clears the Senate, and passage is expected in the Democrat-controlled lower chamber, despite efforts of House Republican leaders to urge their members to vote against it.

Spearheaded by a bipartisan group of senators led by Democrat Chris Murphy of Connecticut and John Cornyn of Texas, negotiations over the plan to curb gun violence began last month in response to a pair of mass shootings — at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, and at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas — that left a combined 31 people dead.

Senate negotiators released a framework of the proposal earlier this month, and unveiled the legislative text Tuesday, after which the upper chamber took the first step to advance the bill in a bipartisan procedural vote.

The legislation enhances background checks for prospective gun buyers under 21 years old, closes the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” clarifies the definition of a Federally Licensed Firearms Dealer, and creates criminal penalties for straw purchases and gun trafficking. It also provides $750 million in grants to incentivize states to implement state crisis intervention programs and provides roughly billions of dollars in federal funding to bolster mental health services for children and families and harden schools.

The Senate’s measure does not go as far as what President Biden has called for and is significantly more narrow than a package of bills that passed the House this month. That legislation would raise the minimum age to purchase a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21 years old and ban large-capacity magazines. It also incentivizes the safe storage of firearms and establishes requirements regulating the storage of guns on residential premises.

While the House legislation includes many of the proposals advocated for by Mr. Biden, it would not have won enough support from Republicans to overcome the 60-vote threshold for legislation to advance in the Senate.

Democrats involved in the upper chamber’s bipartisan discussions have acknowledged their proposal is more tailored, but they have said a slimmed-down package had a better chance of receiving GOP backing.

The bill is opposed by the National Rifle Association, which said in a statement Tuesday it can be “abused to restrict lawful gun purchases, infringe upon the rights of law-abiding Americans, and use federal dollars to fund gun control measures being adopted by state and local politicians.”

House Republican leaders, too, have said the Senate’s plan is part of an effort to erode law-abiding Americans’ Second Amendment rights. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who supports the bill, said on the Senate floor Wednesday that the legislation advances “commonsense solutions without rolling back rights for law-abiding citizens.”

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