Schumer moves ahead with background-check bill as discussions stall

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is moving ahead without a Republican partner on legislation to expand background checks to private gun sales, a troubling sign for the centerpiece of President Obama’s gun-violence agenda.

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Schumer has negotiated for weeks with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to reach a bipartisan deal on background checks, but the talks stalled over the thorny question of how to implement an expansion of background checks.

Schumer argues expanded background checks are unenforceable unless sellers or gun dealers who perform the checks are required to keep records. Coburn says gun owners will not accept the bureaucratic onus of keeping paperwork for exercising their Second Amendment rights.

Time has run out on their talks, which included Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), because Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) plans to mark up a series of gun-violence measures Thursday.

In the absence of a bipartisan deal, Schumer will introduce an updated version of the Fix Guns Checks Act of 2011. It’s similar to the legislation Schumer was discussing with Coburn, Kirk and Manchin, but without the latest modifications, such as improvements to get state records into the background check database.

The Fix Gun Checks Act would require a background check for virtually every gun sale and require private sellers to verify the person they are selling to is not prohibited from buying a firearm. It includes exemptions for law enforcement and sales to family members.

Kirk and Manchin are not backing the legislation Schumer will offer in the Judiciary Committee Thursday.

“We are committed to continuing to work in a bipartisan effort with Sens. Schumer, Coburn and others in order to find a commonsense solution for enhanced background checks, however, Sen. Schumer’s current proposal is one we cannot support as it stands today,” Kirk and Manchin said in a statement Wednesday evening. “Our goal is to pass a bill that will close loopholes in the current background check process in a way that does not burden law-abiding citizens.”

Schumer will shop the compromise he was working on with Coburn to other Republican senators.

“Even as we reach out to other Republicans in the Senate, we have not ruled out the possibility of ultimately striking an agreement that includes Sen. Coburn, and overall, we remain very optimistic about the prospects for passing a background checks bill in the Senate in the coming weeks,” said a Democratic aide.