Republican and Democratic senators working to strengthen gun background checks are closing in on a deal and hope to have an agreement by week’s end, aides on both sides tell National Journal.
Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer and Republican Sen. Tom Coburn have been working, along with GOP Sen. Mark Kirk and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, to finalize legislative language that balances the desire for beefed up background checks with gun owners’ civil liberties, aides say.
“We’re getting closer and closer,” Schumer said in a statement to National Journal. “I very much like Tom Coburn. He's a straight shooter with real beliefs but he's a very reasonable fellow. He has a lot of courage. We view some things differently, but we can meet part of the way."
Manchin added, “Hopefully, this week we’ll get some things worked out.”
If Schumer and Coburn could strike a deal, it would almost surely attract the support of moderate Democrats and conservative Republicans needed to pass a bill in the Senate.
“I think that would give them comfort,” Manchin said. “If I sign and Tom signs off on something, I can assure you that we’re not going to do something that’s going to jeopardize a person’s right to have their guns.”
Kirk echoed Manchin. “I do think we can build a surprising amount of support for what we’ve been talking about, as long as it’s done carefully,” he said. “I think the sense is the time is now and that we should use this opportunity to go.”
Indeed, the group is working against the clock. Schumer is hoping to be able to clinch a deal before next week’s Senate recess to give Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy time to review it. Leahy, who has huge influence over the final shape of the legislation, has said he wants to begin marking up a bill before month’s end. Schumer is hoping that a proposal with bipartisan support will be a strong contender to become the basis for the Senate’s gun reform legislation.
Coburn, who is in the thick of negotiations, kept his cards close on Tuesday, telling National Journal, “I’m trying to get the right thing done and I don’t have a timeframe.” He declined to say what issues are outstanding.
But Republicans say one of Coburn’s top issues is preventing the bill from including a national gun registry to track gun owners, which would be a deal killer. Coburn is also trying to give states an opt-out, though the states’ rights issue does not have the potential to derail a deal.
Coburn is also working on a way to exempt from background checks gun sales or transfers between family members and providing gun sellers in rural areas an Internet-based background check system similar to the ones that landlords use to screen tenants.