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NC's Thom Tillis, Richard Burr vote to advance bipartisan gun bill

Richard Burr, Thom Tillis
North Carolina U.S. Senators Richard Burr (left) and Thom Tillis were among 14 Republicans who voted to advance a gun safety bill in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday.

North Carolina's two U.S. senators, Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, were among 14 Republicans who voted to advance a bipartisan gun safety bill in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday.

If passed, the legislation would represent one of the most significant changes to the nation's gun safety laws in decades.

The 80-page bill would strengthen background checks for 18- to 21-year-olds, require more sellers to conduct background checks, and increase penalties for people who illegally buy and then sell weapons to people barred from purchasing firearms.

The measure would also incentivize states to pass so-called "red flag" laws that allow government agencies to temporarily take away guns from people deemed dangerous, and provide more funding for mental health and school safety programs.

The legislation also would close the so-called "boyfriend loophole," by barring anyone in a serious dating relationship from purchasing a firearm if they are convicted of domestic violence. Under current law, people convicted of domestic violence are only prevented from buying a firearm if they live with, are married to, or have children with a partner.

Missing from the bill are more forceful proposals championed by some gun control advocates, including a ban on assault-style weapons or raising the minimum age for buying them.

The bill passed an initial hurdle in the Senate by a vote of 64 to 34 on Wednesday. All 48 Democrats and their two aligned independents voted for the bill.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer predicted that the bill could win final approval from the Senate by the end of the week, and the bill could then pass the Democratic-led House soon after.

Speaking to reporters following the Wednesday vote, Sen. Tillis said he believed the bill was a "positive step" in the fight against gun violence, though he did not believe the bill was a cure-all.

"It won't stop every horrible event like we've seen at far too many schools and at far too many public place, but I am convinced that it's going to help communities (be) safer, and that it's going to help people who may need help — who have mental health challenges — to get the help that they need to avert the crisis far before it escalates to the level it did in Uvalde," Tillis said.

Tillis was among a core group of senators that negotiated the bill, which also included Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Nick de la Canal is the host of Weekend Edition on Saturday/Sunday mornings, and a reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal