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Gun-sale records are sticking point

| Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, 9:54 p.m.

WASHINGTON — A dispute over whether to require record keeping for private gun sales is holding up a compromise between Republican and Democratic senators over expanding background checks for firearms transactions, one of President Obama's top gun control priorities, those familiar with the talks said on Sunday.

Two GOP and two Democratic senators have been looking for a compromise on requiring more of the checks, which are mandatory only for transactions by federally licensed dealers. Private transactions at gun shows, online and elsewhere are not covered. Proponents say that the system is designed to keep firearms from criminals and those with serious mental problems.

The senators have been bargaining quietly over ways to expand the checks to private sales. But Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a conservative who has taken a leading role in the talks, opposes record keeping for private transactions because of a concern it could lead to a national registry of gun owners. The National Rifle Association is against such a registry.

Democrats said keeping records of private sales is the only way to ensure the checks are performed, and insist that fears are unfounded. They have offered to have gun manufacturers or other private entities, not the government, keep those records.

The talks were described by a Senate aide and a lobbyist who spoke on condition of anonymity because the senators' talks are private and considered extremely politically sensitive.

Other senators participating in the bargaining are liberal Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., moderate Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and moderate Mark Kirk, R-Ill.

An agreement involving the influential Coburn could be pivotal because it could pave the way for other Republicans to support a background check bill. Coburn said on Sunday that he opposed keeping records on “legitimate, law-abiding gun owners.”

“All they have to do is create a record keeping and that will kill this bill,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The bargainers are close to agreement on other parts of the background check compromise, including carving out exemptions for sales between close relatives and for people who had been cleared to receive concealed-carry permits. They are working toward establishing an appeals process for veterans initially denied guns because they were treated for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is hoping his panel can begin writing gun control legislation this week, but it could well happen next week.

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