WASHINGTON (AP) — Talks between two influential senators have emerged as the most promising route for a bipartisan breakthrough on expanding federal background checks for gun buyers, a pivotal part of President Barack Obama's plan for combating gun violence.
One possibility being discussed by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., would involve expanding background checks to gun show sales and firearms transactions online, Senate aides said. Sales between close relatives and temporary transfers between hunters may be excluded, but an agreement along those lines could give Obama's guns agenda a significant boost and would be a major expansion of the current system, which covers only sales handled by federally licensed gun dealers.
The agreement remains a work in progress and could change, said Senate aides who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private talks.
But because of their credentials, an accord between the two lawmakers could make it easier for gun control advocates to win crucial support from wavering moderate Democrats and from GOP senators, who have largely opposed much of Obama's push on guns.
Manchin is a moderate and Toomey is a conservative, and both senators have received A ratings from the National Rifle Association, which has opposed the major parts of Obama's plan, including his call for nearly universal background checks.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Monday that a compromise on gun legislation was "feasible and possible and is also necessary and desirable."
"Senator Toomey's involvement along with Senator Manchin, two very credible and experienced senators, is very important to achieving that kind of common ground," Blumenthal told CNN.
Senators return Monday from a two-week spring recess, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has been hoping to begin debate on Democrats' gun legislation Tuesday. That could be delayed if Manchin and Toomey seem close to an agreement but need more time to complete one.