Monday, April 08, 2013

NRA quashes all ideas but background checks but still faces challenge from stricter gun-rights group

Republican and Democratic senators appear to be near a deal on gun-sale background checks, but the National Rifle Association is working with other lawmakers to change the rules on how checks are conducted, and another gun-rights lobby says the NRA isn't strong enough.

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) "are developing a measure to require background checks for all gun purchases except sales between close family members and some hunters, which addresses concerns of some conservatives," Ed O'Keefe and Philip Rucker report for The Washington Post.

But expanded background checks are likely to be the only big change sought by gun-control advocates because they "acknowledge that the NRA is getting the better of them, both in Congress and state capitals across the country," Tom Hamburger reports for the Post. His object example is Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), who said after the Connecticut school shooting that it would cause a "sea change" in gun-control politics, but is now working with the NRA on a bill "that would change the way mental illness is reported in the background check system — a measure that critics say could make firearms more easily available to the mentally ill." Begich told Hamburger, “The NRA is one of the most important groups in my state.”

Even so, the NRA is facing stiff competition from Gun Owners of America, Jennifer Steinhauer reports for The New York Times. "The group has already been successful in both freezing senators, particularly Republicans, who have appeared to be on the fence about supporting bills to expand background checks and increase penalties for illegal gun purchases, and empowering those who have a strong gun rights background." Steinhauer writes, "Many lawmakers and gun safety advocates believe Gun Owners of America’s rising profile and heavy membership drive has led the NRA to take a more aggressive stance against measures it once supported, like an expansion of background checks to include private gun sales," something the NRA once said it could support.

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