Coburn says he can't support Toomey-Manchin plan because it won't work

The Senate will hold a procedural vote to begin debate on S.649, the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act, at 11 a.m. Thursday.

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The Senate gun reform bill would expand background checks on gun purchases, create new penalties on straw purchases and include new funding for school security. The bill doesn’t include an assault weapons ban or limits on magazine clip capacity — although Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) promised a vote on those provisions as an amendment.

Reid said that the first amendment considered would be a new deal from Manchin and Toomey on background checks.

Republicans expressed concern that extending background checks could create a federal registry of gun owners and make it harder for family members to transfer firearms. 

Manchin and Toomey’s deal would expand background checks to cover all sales at gun shows and over the Internet. Those background checks would have to be accompanied by records proving to law enforcement officials they took place. It would exempt gun sales and transfers between friends and acquaintances without the help of an online intermediary.

Coburn said that agreement would not keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. He said people at gun shows would just agree to make the sale a few days later in order to get around the background check requirement. Coburn said he’d prefer a system where private gun seller would have access to a “nix list” so that they would know whether they are selling their gun to a “criminal” or someone with a “mental impairment.”

“If you don’t allow public to know if they’ve sold their gun to the mentally impaired or criminal, it won’t work,” Coburn said. “There’s nothing wrong with using your cell phone to find out if a person is on the nix list before selling a gun.”

Democrats have been pushing major gun reforms since December when a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six school employees at Sandy Hook elementary in Newtown, Conn. Family members of the Newtown victims came to Washington, D.C., this week to meet with senators to persuade them to pass gun-control reforms. 

Coburn said he met with many of those family members Wednesday, but he believes the Senate legislation will not prevent another tragedy such as the one in Newtown. He also said that the Senate package has no chance of passing in the House.

“What we’re seeing proposed right now is never going to pass the House,” Coburn said. “It won’t make a difference to the American people.”

Earlier Wednesday, Reid said that even if a few deaths were prevented because of stricter gun-control legislation, it would be worth it.

“If we stop a few, isn’t that remarkably important for us to do,” Reid said. “I think we can do more than just save the lives of a few with this legislation.”

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