Washington: Two senators announced on Wednesday that they have struck a bipartisan deal on expanding background checks to more firearms purchases, an agreement that could build support for President Barack Obama's drive to curb gun violence. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and Republican Senator Pat Toomey announced their pact on Wednesday.
Subjecting more firearms purchases to federal background checks has been the chief goal of Obama and gun control supporters, who promote the system as a way to prevent criminals and other potentially dangerous people from getting weapons. Still, two major provisions in Obama's original gun control package - a ban on sales of military-style assault weapons and a limit on the size of ammunition magazines - are not even being discussed any more since they have no hope of being passed.
The deal would expand the checks to cover all commercial sales, such as at gun shows and online. Private transactions that are not for profit, such as those between relatives, would be exempt. Currently, the system only covers sales through licensed gun dealers. The background check deal was a boost for firearms restrictions in the wake of December's shooting that killed 20 small children and six staffers at an elementary school in Connecticut.
The overall gun bill also tightens federal laws against illegal gun sales and slightly increases federal aid for school safety. Any gun control measure would be a plus for Obama as he tries in his second term to build a legacy. Other measures he is working on include an immigration bill and a budget deal that will keep the US from repeatedly lurching to financial crises.
Meanwhile, the Senate is ready for an opening vote on restricting guns as Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid set a roll call vote for Thursday on starting consideration of the firearms legislation. The background check deal makes it even likelier that Democrats will win enough Republican support to thwart an effort by conservatives and Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to block consideration from even starting.
The administration was continuing its effort to pressure Congress on gun control on Tuesday as first lady Michelle Obama Planned to visit a Chicago high school where authorities say 29 current or former students have been shot in the past year. Eight of them died.