Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), left, and Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.)… (Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated…)
WASHINGTON — The Senate moved to begin long-anticipated deliberations Thursday over new gun laws as Republicans appeared to lack the strength to block the debate and bipartisan talks over expanding background checks on gun buyers appeared to have led to a deal.
Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), who have been negotiating a compromise on background checks, scheduled a joint announcement for Wednesday morning at the Capitol.
The gun bill has been taking shape since 20 first-graders and six staff members died almost four months ago in a fusillade of 154 bullets at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. It would authorize money to secure schools and increase penalties for gun trafficking. But the most significant element, an expansion of the background check system to cover almost all sales, including those at gun shows, has been contentious.
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On Tuesday evening, Manchin, who has led efforts to craft a proposal that could draw enough Republican votes to pass the closely divided Senate, expressed optimism that he was near his goal.
“The gun show loopholes will be closed, hopefully. And Internet sales loopholes will be closed,” he said.
The deal worked out by Manchin and Toomey would require buyers in all commercial sales, essentially those which are advertised to the public, to go through background checks, according to officials familiar with the negotiations. That would appear to leave out some private sales among individuals but cover the sales that gun control advocates say are a significant source of weapons to criminals.
Sellers would be required to go through a licensed gun dealer to conduct the background check, and the dealer would be required to keep a record of the transaction as they do now with guns they sell directly. Law enforcement agencies have said that those records are crucial to allow the tracing of guns used in crimes. The record-keeping requirement has been a major sticking point for gun control opponents, who say they fear that sales receipts eventually could be used as the basis for a national gun registry, something that is barred by federal law.