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Congress nears deal on background checks

WASHINGTON (AP) — A bipartisan deal seems imminent on expanding background checks to more gun buyers, an agreement that could build support for President Barack Obama's drive to curb firearms violence.

Meanwhile, the Senate is ready for an opening vote on restricting guns as Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., set a roll call for Thursday on starting consideration of the firearms legislation. Odds are growing that Democrats will win enough Republican support to thwart an effort by conservatives and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to block consideration from even starting.

"I hope Republicans will stop trying to shut down debate and start engaging in the tough issues we were sent to Washington to tackle," Reid said.

Together, the developments were a boost for gun control advocates battling for restrictions in the wake of December's shootings that killed 20 first-graders and six staffers at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

Even so, the ultimate fate of gun legislation remains unclear, clouded by opposition from many Republicans and moderate Democrats in the Democratic-led Senate and the Republican-run House. Many critics say the proposal would violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms and burden law-abiding gun owners.

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