Giffords, Kelly seek to unify Senate Democrats on background checks

Former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) and her husband Mark Kelly are trying to persuade Senate Democrats to unify behind legislation tightening background checks on gun purchases.

Several Democrats are either opposed or unsure of supporting a compromise crafted by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), leaving legislation described as the “sweet spot” of gun control with an uncertain future.

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The bill does not have the 60 votes it needs for passage, and three Democratic senators say they oppose it. Several others have not committed to supporting it.

Manchin escorted Kelly and Giffords, who survived being shot in the head by an attacker in 2011, into the Senate Democratic lunch. She and Kelly have launched a super PAC to support candidates who back gun control.

Some Democrats were caught off guard by the lack of Republican support for the Manchin-Toomey plan. They thought it would draw a larger bipartisan coalition because Manchin and Toomey both have A ratings from the National Rifle Association.

But the NRA opposes the bill and has warned it will punish lawmakers who support it.

Manchin and Toomey have intensified their effort to muster support for their plan. They have discussed exempting rural gun owners who lives far from federally licensed firearm dealers from the background-check requirement.

But the concession has not been enough to win the support of Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) or several Republicans who were thought to be swing votes but in recent days have come out against the Manchin-Toomey amendment.