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'Do-it-yourself' background check eyed

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Sen. Tom Coburn says that background checks for gun owners need to be user-friendly. 'If you make it easy for people to comply with the law, they’ll do it,” the Oklahoma Republican said.

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By USA Today
Saturday, April 27, 2013, 6:21 p.m.
 

WASHINGTON — Getting a background check to buy a gun would be as easy as printing out an airplane boarding pass — if Sen. Tom Coburn has his way.

Coburn's do-it-yourself background check plan — which would expand the number of gun sales covered by background checks but also attempt to make them more user-friendly — is one possible path forward for the gun safety legislation now stalled in the Senate. Last week, 41 Republicans and five Democrats voted to block a compromise background check proposal endorsed by many gun control groups but opposed by the National Rifle Association.

Gun control advocates are more skeptical of Coburn's plan, and Coburn himself admitted he doesn't know whether it has the votes to pass. But it appears his plan will get a vote: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., promised as much last week as he pulled the gun bill from the floor, saying he would bring it up again later. Coburn has one co-sponsor, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., but the NRA has been silent on the proposal.

Here's how Coburn's plan would work: A gun buyer would log in to a free federal web portal and enter some personal information. If the buyer passes the background check, he or she would get a multi-digit key code, good for 30 days, to print out and take to a seller. That seller would use the same portal to confirm the authenticity of the background check.

The self-service system, the Oklahoma Republican said, would bypass the cost and record-keeping requirements required by the current proposal, which requires the involvement of a federally licensed firearm dealer for sales at gun shows and over the Internet. It's unclear how much it would cost to create a public-facing portal, but Congress has already authorized more than $1.2 billion to improve the system available to law enforcement and licensed dealers.

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