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House passes 'red-flag' bill as talks continue on gun restrictions

The measure would allow a judge to issue an order temporarily preventing a person deemed a danger from purchasing or possessing firearms.
A representative of a manufacturer holds a pistol at the annual NRA meeting in Houston on May 27. Allison Dinner for NBC News

The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a so-called red-flag bill that would allow a judge to take firearms away from a person who poses an imminent danger to themselves or others.

The bill, one of a number gun-safety measures taken up in the House in the wake of mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas, advanced in a 224-202 vote and is viewed as having a greater chance than some of the other legislation of advancing in the evenly split Senate. Five Republicans supported the measure and one Democrat voted against it.

Speaking on the House floor ahead of the vote, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said the measure, which would allow a judge to issue an order temporarily preventing a person deemed a danger from purchasing or possessing firearms, could save lives. While details in mass shooting cases "may differ," he said, "there's one theme that comes up most often: Someone deeply troubled, experiencing some sort of crisis, had easy access to firearms."

"All too often the warning signs were clear, and nothing was done to keep guns out of their hands before it was too late," Nadler said. He said the bill "provides a sensible means by which someone who's exhibiting dangerous behavior can be prevented from possessing or purchasing a firearms before tragedy strikes."

Nadler said more than a dozen states have similar laws already on the books, adding that the measures have saved lives. In the first three years California enacted its red-flag law, the measure was invoked "in 58 mass shooting threats, including six where a minor was threatening a school," he said.

Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., urged his colleagues to vote against the bill, saying it would allow “the courts to take guns away from people without notice and without even the right to appear in the hearing and defend themselves in court.” While those people would be able to petition the court to get their weapons back, Johnson said, “due process after the fact is no due process at all.”

Nadler maintained the measure has "strong due process provisions that strike the appropriate balance between protecting the rights of gun owner and ensuring community safety.'

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Ga., touted the legislation in an interview with NBC News earlier this week

“Red-flag laws work to prevent school and mass shootings,” said McBath, who lost her 17-year-old son after a man complaining about loud music opened fire on a car of teens at a Jacksonville, Florida, gas station in 2012. “They work to keep those who may be contemplating suicide from accessing a weapon. They can be used to keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have them.”

On Wednesday, the House passed a legislative package that would raise the minimum age to buy semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21, but it is not expected to advance in the Senate, where a bipartisan group of senators have been working on their own package.

Those talks include funding for grants for state's to implement their own red flag laws.

"I think we are coming very close to a framework, a basic outline, and a lot of the specifics, but there are still details that we need to resolve, and, for example, the specifics of the red flag law that I have been working on for years. By no means easy, I think we can get there, may take some time, but we are determined, and I really mean determined, to do everything possible to cross the finish line," Sen. Richard Blumenthal, one of the negotiators, told reporters on Wednesday.