Talks focus on changes in U.S. Senate background check proposal

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WASHINGTON -- Little Republican support has emerged for a proposed background checks expansion that had been seen as the Senate's best chance to break a logjam in the gun control debate.

Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey and West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, who forged the compromise measure, are meeting now with former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was wounded in a shooting. The proposal they have put forward would require background checks for commercial firearms purchases at gun shows and over the Internet.

Early in the afternoon, Mr. Manchin said: "We're close." He said that he will need support from others. "We're close, but we need their help."

Democratic leaders initially expected to take up the measure but now that's in jeopardy, although some supporters held out hope it still could be voted on later today.

Several Republican votes are needed to prevent a filibuster by gun rights supporters who are under increasing pressure from the National Rifle Association to block gun-control votes.

Talks going on now are focused on a revision that would exempt people in rural areas who live far from a gun dealer, according to a Senate aide familiar with the discussions. The change is aimed at Alaskan senators who raised the issue, but there are no assurances at this point that the change will assure their votes.

Mr. Manchin wouldn't comment on the specifics of the negotiations, nor would Mr. Toomey, who just said, "We're working on it."

"There are disagreements as to what we should do with gun legislation, if anything," Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said on the Senate floor this morning before breaking for weekly caucus meetings.

"It would be a shame if we got into a procedural hassle on all this stuff. We want to debate the issues," Mr. Reid said. "I want to have a full, complete debate."

The National Rifle Association strongly opposes background checks proposal and has threatened to target its supporters when they are up for re-election.

Mr. Reid said victims of gun violence deserve to a vote on the Toomey-Manchin amendment and several others.

Gun control has been on the forefront in Washington since December's horrific school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Asked whether he was optimistic, Mr. Manchin said, "I'm always optimistic."

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Washington Bureau Chief Tracie Mauriello: tmauriello@post-gazette.com, 703-996-9292 or on Twitter @pgPoliTweets. First Published April 16, 2013 12:45 AM


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