This isn’t to say that the last five percent can’t scuttle the emerging compromise. As one source put it, that remains the “hardest part.” But there is reason for optimism that the four Senators—Republicans Tom Coburn and Mark Kirk, and Democrats Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin—may be able to bridge remaining differences.Expanding background checks to private gun sales is the new firearms restriction that gets the widest support from Americans, more than 90 percent according to numerous polls. Backers include a majority of gun owners and a majority of members of the National Rifle Association, though not the leadership of that gun industry mouthpiece. Currently, only federally licensed dealers are required to run background checks on potential buyers. What percentage of guns is sold privately is a matter of dispute.
The deal's parameters so far, according to several of Sargent's sources:
• agreement on the concept of expanding the background check to cover most private sales
• agreement on the concept of improving state mental illness data-sharing with the federal government
• discussions still under way about background-check exemptions that would include sales or other transfers
• discussions ongoing on altering how background checks are performed for private sales in certain rural areas
• discussions about exempting Americans who have undergone background checks to obtain “conceal and carry” permits
A Government Accountability Office report last July calculated the number of concealed carry permits issued nationwide at about eight million although their distribution is uneven. Florida alone has more than a million.
Opposition to creating any kind of gun registry remains strong. Under current law (Title 28, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 25.9(b)(1), (2), and (3)), the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System must destroy all identifying information on allowed transactions prior to the start of the next NICS operational day. That means, on allowed transactions—which comprise 97-98 percent of all background checks—NICS records are destroyed within 24 hours. Destruction used to be required within 90 days. Sargent notes that despite current law, the four senators are trying to come up with additional safeguards against a registry, something that most gun-rights advocates vehemently oppose. They see it as opening the door to later government confiscation of some—or all—guns.
In the view of some critics, for background checks to really be effective, a registry is needed so that gun trafficking can be curtailed and guns more easily traced. Some gun-rights advocates say background checks can never be effective without a registry. They therefore oppose passing an expansion of background checks which they say will do no good. Ain't that the perfect Catch-22?