By Alexander Bolton - 04/16/13 03:53 PM EDT
Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat from Alaska who has withheld his support for gun control legislation, says a proposal to exempt rural gun owners from background-check requirements would likely not win his vote.
Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), the co-sponsors of an amendment to expand background checks for gun sales, have discussed the possibility of exempting residents of rural areas who do not live within convenient driving distance of a gun dealer.
Under the amendment they introduced last week, firearms purchased at gun shows and over the Internet would require federally licensed gun dealer to conduct a background check.
Potential Republican swing votes have steadily announced their opposition to the Manchin-Toomey proposal, putting pressure on the sponsors to woo Begich and other lawmakers from rural states. Many people in Alaska, the largest state in the nation by geographic area, do not live within hundreds of miles of a licensed gun dealer.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, another Democrat who has declined to endorse the Manchin-Toomey plan, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, are other lawmakers targeted by the proposed exemption for rural gun owners.
Ladd Everitt, the spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said about 98 percent of U.S. residents live within 10 miles of federally licensed gun dealers.
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), who voted last week against a motion to begin debate on the gun control package, said he has yet to make up his mind on the Manchin-Toomey proposal.
He plans to review it in the next 24 hours and is also interested in learning more about a plan sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, addressing background checks, the availability of firearms to mentally-ill individuals and school safety.