WASHINGTON -– The infamously independent Republican Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.) threw the first serious cold water on the bipartisan gun bill compromise brokered by two colleagues, calling their expanded background checks plan "unworkable."
Coburn had been courted by Democrats earlier in hopes of producing a bipartisan bill, but that fell apart. Instead, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) rolled out an offering Wednesday that extends background checks to gun shows and Internet sales, but exempts private person-to-person sales.
Many senators were non-committal on the proposal, including pro-gun Democrat Max Baucus, of Montana, who said he would not comment on it until he sees the legislative language.
But Coburn released a strong statement Wednesday afternoon, calling his colleagues' proposal "a good faith but unworkable plan."
"The proposal will impose new taxes and unreasonable burdens on law-abiding citizens," said Coburn. In the rest of his statement, Coburn singled out the private sales, saying that people will simply skip gun shows and sell their arms in other places.
“A government takeover of gun shows will open more loopholes than it closes," Coburn said. "Instead of paying a gun show tax, gun owners will simply handle those transactions elsewhere. The Manchin-Toomey proposal, unfortunately, trades a workable way to improve access the NICS database [the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System] for a system that is not workable and will be extremely difficult to pass Congress and become law.
“I entered these talks because I believe the American people want a common sense policy that respects their Second Amendment rights and freedoms while giving them the tools they need to make sure they aren’t transferring a firearm to someone who will be a threat to themselves or others," Coburn said.
He added that he will offer an amendment that, among other things, creates a "consumer portal that would facilitate access to the NICS database at not just gun shows, but for virtually all private sales."
The amendment is difficult to square with concerns Coburn has expressed about privacy for gun owners. The portal would somehow have to allow sellers access to the NICS, but create no traceable federal record.
Coburn may not be a fan of the Manchin-Toomey proposal, but at least he was willing to talk about it. The Huffington Post tracked down more than a dozen Republican and conservative Democratic senators to ask their reaction to the deal. Some literally ran away.
"You'll have to get out of here, this door will close," Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said as he stepped into an elevator. "I've got to do TV at 2 o'clock."
"I actually try to be pretty helpful with you all, but I've got a 2 p.m. meeting," said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who walked away without responding when a reporter asked to walk with him.
Others said they needed more time to review the language of the amendment. Among them: Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).
A couple of senators were willing to stake out a position. Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) said he didn't support the proposal. But having just left lunch with GOP colleagues, he could see that they were all over the place on it.
"There's no unified voice on this issue," Boozman said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who spoke to reporters for a few seconds before disappearing into an elevator, was pretty clear about his position, too.
"Not a big fan of expanding background checks," Graham said. "I appreciate their effort. I want to go a different way. Adios."
The Senate is expected to hold its first procedural vote on the overall bill Thursday.
This article has been updated to include reaction from senators.
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1981: The Attempted Assassination Of President Ronald Reagan
on March 30, 1981, President Reagan and three others were shot and wounded in an assassination attempt by John Hinckley, Jr. outside the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. Reagan's press secretary, Jim Brady, was shot in the head.
1993: The Brady Handgun Violence Act
The Brady Handgun Violence Act of 1993, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, mandated that federally licensed dealers complete comprehensive background checks on individuals before selling them a gun. The legislation was named for James Brady, who was shot during an attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
1994: The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act
The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, instituted a ban on 19 kinds of assault weapons, including Uzis and AK-47s. The crime bill also banned the possession of magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition. (An exemption was made for weapons and magazines manufactured prior to the ban.)
2004: Law Banning Magazines Holding More Than Ten Rounds Of Ammunition Expires
In 2004, ten years after it first became law, Congress allowed a provision banning possession of magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition to expire through a sunset provision. Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke told HuffPost that the expiration of this provision meant that Rep. Gabby Giffords's alleged shooter was able to fire off 20-plus shots without reloading (under the former law he would have had only ten).
2007: The U.S. Court of Appeals For The District Of Columbia Rules In Favor Of Dick Heller
In 2007 The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled to allow Dick Heller, a licensed District police officer, to keep a handgun in his home in Washington, D.C. Following that ruling, the defendants petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.
2008: The NICS Improvement Amendments Act
Following the deadly shooting at Virginia Tech University, Congress passed legislation to require states provide data on mentally unsound individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, with the aim of halting gun purchases by the mentally ill, and others prohibited from possessing firearms. The bill was signed into law by President George W. Bush in January of 2008.
2008: Supreme Court Strikes Down D.C. Handgun Ban As Unconstitutional
In June of 2008, the United States Supreme Court upheld the verdict of a lower court ruling the D.C. handgun ban unconstitutional in the landmark case <em>District of Columbia v. Heller</em>.
Gabrielle Giffords And Trayvon Martin Shootings
Gun control advocates had high hopes that reform efforts would have increased momentum in the wake of two tragic events that rocked the nation. In January of 2011, Jared Loughner opened fire at an event held by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), killing six and injuring 13, including the congresswoman. Resulting attempts to push gun control legislation <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">proved fruitless</a>, with neither proposal even succeeding in gaining a single GOP co-sponsor. More than a year after that shooting, Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/trayvon-martin" target="_hplink">gunned down</a> by George Zimmerman in an event that some believed would bring increased scrutiny on the nation's Stand Your Ground laws. While there has been increasing discussion over the nature of those statutes, lawmakers were <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">quick to concede</a> that they had little faith the event would effectively spur gun control legislation, thanks largely to the National Rifle Association's vast lobbying power. Read more <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">here</a>:
Colorado Movie Theater Shooting
In July of 2012, a heavily armed gunman <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/aurora-shooting-movie-theater-batman_n_1688547.html" target="_hplink">opened fire on theatergoers</a> attending a midnight premiere of the final film of the latest Batman trilogy, killing 12 and wounding scores more. The suspect, James Eagan Holmes, allegedly carried out the act with a number of handguns, as well as an AR-15 assault rifle with a 100-round drum magazine. Some lawmakers used the incident, which took place in a state with some of the laxest gun control laws, to bring forth legislation designed to place increased regulations on access to such weapons, but many observers, citing previous experience, were <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/batman-shooting_n_1690547.html" target="_hplink">hesitant to say</a> that they would be able to overcome the power of the National Rifle Association and Washington gun lobby.
Sikh Temple Shooting
On August 5, 2012, white supremacist Wade Michael Page opened fire on a Sikhs gathered at a temple in Oak Creek, Wis., killing six and wounding four more before turning the gun on himself.