A bipartisan group of senators is working on a proposal to strengthen background checks on gun purchasers.


The coalition of lawmakers includes Republican Sens. Tom CoburnTom Coburn'Path of least resistance' problematic for Congress Freedom Caucus saved Paul Ryan's job: GOP has promises to keep Don't be fooled: Carper and Norton don't fight for DC MORE (Okla.), and Mark KirkMark KirkGOP senator defends funding Planned Parenthood Why Qatar Is a problem for Washington Taking the easy layup: Why brain cancer patients depend on it MORE (Ill.) and Democrats Charles SchumerCharles SchumerSenate Dems plan floor protest ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote Dem senator: Don't bet against McConnell on ObamaCare repeal It's time for Republicans to play offense while Democrats are weak MORE (N.Y.) and Joe ManchinJoe ManchinThis week: Senate races toward ObamaCare repeal vote Senate Republicans reluctant to rush vote on healthcare bill Manchin: Senate can do 'an awful lot' to improve healthcare bill MORE (W.Va.), according to USA Today, which first reported the talks.

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The senators have not disclosed the reforms they are considering, but Coburn said the group is working to ensure that firearms remain out of the hands of those who “are a danger to themselves and other people,” according to the report.

“I believe the mentally ill should never be able to get a gun; I believe criminals should never be able to get a gun," Coburn told USA Today. "There's nothing wrong with updating what we're doing to try to make that more effective."

The efforts on background checks come as the gun-control debate moves to Capitol Hill, with the Senate Judiciary Committee slated to begin hearings Wednesday on stemming the nation’s gun-violence epidemic.

The panel is expected to hear from pro-gun lobby groups as well as former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who has been a strong proponent of more stringent gun laws after she was critically injured in 2011 in a mass shooting.

President Obama has called on lawmakers to institute universal background checks on all gun purchasers, alongside bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition sales. 

Judiciary Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahyA bipartisan consensus against 'big pharma' is growing in Congress Going national with automatic voter registration Republicans slam Trump’s new policy toward Cuba MORE (D-Vt.) earlier this month said he was open to examining measures that would improve the nation’s background check system and provide better mental healthcare to prevent gun violence.

The National Rifle Association (NRA), the nation’s pre-eminent gun-rights advocacy group, however, has strongly opposed universal background checks. 

“Background checks will never be ‘universal’ because criminals will never submit to them,” NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre will tell lawmakers in his Senate testimony, according to his prepared remarks. 

Measures such as the assault-weapons ban face a tough fight in Congress, where Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidCharles Koch thanks Harry Reid for helping his book sales Warren cautions Dems against infighting Dems see surge of new candidates MORE (D-Nev.) has declined to endorse a bill from Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinDem senators urged Obama to take action on Russia before election Senate panel questions Lynch on alleged FBI interference The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (D-Calif.) reinstating the federal ban. But polls show the public supports efforts to expand the background check system and Democratic senators have expressed optimism such a bill could pass.

Schumer last week called universal background checks “the sweet spot” in terms of gun-violence-reduction measures. 

"I'd say this is the sweet spot in terms of actually making us safer and having a good chance of passing. This is it," Schumer said. "I think this is the best chance we have of getting something done, and I think you're going to have much broader support than you'd ever imagine."

Sen. Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalOnly Congress can enable drone technology to reach its full potential Overnight Regulation: Labor groups fear rollback of Obama worker protection rule | Trump regs czar advances in Senate | New FCC enforcement chief Dems urge Sessions to reject AT&T-Time Warner merger MORE (D-Conn.) last week also introduced a bill that would require background checks for purchasing gun ammunition. Currently, checks are required of firearm purchasers, but not ammunition buyers.