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Gun control negotiations appear to be near a breakthrough

April 09, 2013|By Michael A. Memoli
  • Neil Heslin, center, whose 6-year-old son Jesse was killed in the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., arrives with other victims' families to meet privately with senators on Capitol Hill.
Neil Heslin, center, whose 6-year-old son Jesse was killed in the mass shooting… (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated…)

WASHINGTON – Negotiations on the centerpiece element of new gun control legislation appeared on the verge of a breakthrough Tuesday evening, with key lawmakers saying a final deal on expanding background checks for gun purchases could be reached Wednesday.

“We’re not there yet. We’re closer than we’ve ever been,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, as he stood with Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) after the two emerged from a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Schumer has been leading the effort to craft gun control legislation in the Senate, while Manchin has been working with Republicans to find a compromise on the most contentious issue in the bill – closing the loopholes that allow many guns to be sold without background checks being conducted on the buyer. The goal is to come up with a bill that could win the 60 votes needed to overcome a threatened filibuster in the Senate.

After several weeks of stalemate, Manchin’s recent talks with Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) have shown the most progress, according to officials familiar with the negotiations. Sen. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.), who discussed gun legislation Tuesday with President Obama, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) also have been working with Manchin.

“I’m very hopeful,” Manchin said. “Everybody’s [saying] how can we make it better. How are we able to improve things as we have today. And I think everyone’s been genuine. So I feel very good.”

Currently, licensed gun dealers are required to submit all purchases for a background check. But guns sales not done by dealers, which may be 40% or more of all gun purchases, do not require a check. Gun control advocates have tried for nearly two decades to close that gap.

A major sticking point in the recent negotiations has been whether private individuals who sell a gun would be required to make a written record of the sale, as dealers do. A written record allows law enforcement agencies to trace the ownership of a gun involved in a crime. Opponents of the idea say the records could eventually become the basis for a national gun registry.

Manchin met with Reid for about half an hour, with the focus on the procedural path for any compromise. Reid is aiming to begin the Senate’s formal debate on gun measures Thursday.

Twitter: @mikememoli

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