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Gun Negotiators Focus on Wooing GOP

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Coburn is largely viewed as the key piece to the gun package talks and has said that his chief concern is whether records of sales will be kept.

“I don’t think it’s wrong for me not to want to sell my gun to a felon — Right? Everybody agree with that? — and I don’t think I want to sell my gun to somebody that’s mentally impaired,” Coburn said in Oklahoma, according to a local account. “So if we can fix that, where it’s easy for me as a gun owner to know I’m not selling my gun to a felon or somebody that’s mentally impaired, with no records kept, I have no problem with trying to do that. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do for the last three months.”

Meanwhile, the search to find other Republican supporters is on. GOP Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Susan Collins of Maine have been approached to gauge their support. Democrats and Republicans alike are trying to avoid the term “universal” when describing the proposed background check legislation for fear of alienating potential conservative backers, and public comments from Flake last week help explain why.

Flake, who also appeared Sunday on “Meet the Press,” told NBC: “We do need to strengthen the background check system. ... But universal background checks, I think is a bridge too far for most of us.”

In a statement provided to CQ Roll Call, Collins’ office said she could support strengthening background checks as long as a registry component was not included.

“Senator Collins has said that she is strongly opposed to a national registry of gun owners. She would support carefully crafted language to strengthen background checks with improved state reporting to the database of felons and those who have been adjudicated by a court as having a serious mental illness that would pose a danger to the individual or others,” Collins spokesman Kevin Kelley said. “Legislation must also include mental health care reform so that we as a society can better identify and care for these troubled individuals.”

Democrats contest that the current language they have, requiring private sellers to keep a paper record of their sales, does not create a national registry but rather imposes the same rules that commercial sellers face on everyone.

Leadership aides expect any gun package would be on the Senate floor for at least a week, assuming details are ironed out as they cautiously expect.

A spokesperson for Schumer declined multiple attempts for comment on the status of the talks.

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