Background check bill back in Congress

Feb. 26, 2013 at 11:32 AM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Universal background checks for gun buys -- a bill that has failed before -- could be debated this week, a U.S. Senate committee's schedule indicated.

The Judiciary Committee scheduled a hearing on legislation to ban assault weapons for Wednesday while on Thursday, the panel will take up several gun-control/gun-violence measures during a business meeting, the committee's weekly schedule indicated.

In the wake of the massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., in which 26 people died, including 20 children, a bipartisan group of senators has been working the last month on background check legislation but negotiations bogged down on the question of how private sales records should be maintained.

Gun control advocates now have an advantage they didn't have in 1999 when they tried and failed to pass universal background checks after the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.: better organization and better political street smarts, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

Since 1993, customers buying firearms from federally licensed dealers must submit to a background check to ensure they are not prohibited from owning a weapon. Checks are not required for sales by private sellers, who don't have federal licenses but are a fixture at gun shows, creating what has become known as the "gun show loophole."

Supporters such as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, co-chairman of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, have injected funds so gun-control advocates can compete with the National Rifle Association's $200-million-plus annual budget.

"The gun lobby, unopposed, has been leading the debate," David Chipman, a former agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives now with Bloomberg's non-profit group, told the Times. "There's not just one voice in the room anymore."

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