Senate quietly working for deal on background checks

NRA-backed Sens. Joe Manchin and Tom Coburn are among the four looking for a bipartisan compromise

By Jillian Rayfield

Published February 8, 2013 2:04PM (EST)

A bipartisan group of senators is reportedly making progress on a deal for universal background checks, which could  include a way of closing the gun show loophole.

Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who are both "F"-rated by the NRA, and Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who are both "A"-rated by the NRA, have been quietly working on a compromise.

CNN reports:

CNN is told the legislation they are working on would effectively require background checks on private gun purchases made with non-licensed gun dealers, according to sources in both parties. That would include closing the so-called gun show loophole.

However, the sources emphasize they are trying to work through this sticky issue so that Republicans, especially Coburn, are comfortable that it would address privacy concerns of gun owners, and would have clear exemptions for situations where a background check should not be needed. The most common example of that scenario is a grandfather or uncle giving guns they already own to a grandson or nephew.

The Associated Press has some more details:

The senators' talks have included discussions about ways to encourage states to make more mental health records available to the national system and the types of transactions that might be exempted from background checks, such as sales among relatives or to those who have permits to carry concealed weapons, said people who spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to describe the negotiations publicly.

Coburn got involved in the talks two weeks ago, the AP reports, and said recently in an interview with USA Today: “I believe the mentally ill should never be able to get a gun, I believe criminals should never be able to get a gun. There’s nothing wrong with updating what we’re doing to try to make that more effective.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee has been holding hearings on gun violence, and is expected to roll out a comprehensive gun control package some time in the next few weeks. Both the committee's chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and President Obama, have come out strongly in support of universal background checks. 

Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at

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