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Despite Compromise, Bipartisan Consensus Remains: Assault Weapons OK

Gun safety groups applaud movement on background checks, but NRA's grip on legislators remains intact

- Jon Queally, staff writer

Recognizing that true gains on gun safety laws are going nowhere fast in Washington, proponents of more aggressive efforts were forced to cautiously applaud the small progress made if a compromise deal struck in the US Senate on Wednesday between Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV.) can find its way into law.

Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) (R) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.VA) (L) hold a news conference on background checks for firearms on Capitol Hill in Washington April 10, 2013. (Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron) Both senators have received "A" ratings from the National Rifle Association.

The deal, which could face a vote in the Senate as early as Thursday, would end the so-called "gun show loophole" and force federal background checks on arms sales that take place outside of gun shops, including at large gun shows and through online retail outlets previously exempt from the practice.

However, the law would not include person-to-person individual sales, and also loosens existing restrictions on firearms brought across state lines.

“While we continue to review the draft bill," said the Brady Campaign's president Dan Gross, "we believe a majority of the components are a good step forward to reducing gun violence. It continues the work that began more than 20 years ago when the Brady background check system was first created."

Though the bill gave reason "to be optimistic," Gross said there was still a long road ahead for those who advocate a true and comprehensive gun safety overhaul.

The group Moms Demand Action released a statement saying the Senate deal was "only the first step in an uphill battle for common-sense gun laws in America."

"Mothers remain undaunted," they continued, "and we will go to any length to protect our children. Eight children are killed by guns every day in the United States; the 80 million moms in our country will not stand for inaction by Congress on sensible gun laws."

And The Guardian reports:

A spokeswoman for the Sandy Hook Promise, a campaign group set up by Newtown residents after December's shooting, said it had not yet received a briefing on the senate proposals but would respond when it saw them.

Families of Sandy Hook victims have been lobbying members of Congress in Washington this week, and Michelle Obama is expected to up the pressure with a rare foray into politics at a gun control event in Chicago later on Wednesday.

Manchin rejected criticism that such a deal would be too incremental to make much difference. "To get anything of this proportion would be amazing," he told reporters following a press conference at the Senate.

"This is just a start and not the end of our work," he added. "This will not take away the pain of events like Sandy Hook, but it has changed our hearts and minds."

But, as Reuters adds:

...the agreement, designed to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals and the mentally ill, has significant exemptions for "temporary transfers" of weapons or private sales among friends and family members. No background checks would be required in such transactions.

One question surrounding the compromise is whether some gun sellers could try to avoid doing background checks by saying that buyers were "friends."

More controversial parts of Obama's gun-control plan - such as a ban on rapid-firing "assault" weapons like the one used in Connecticut and limits on the capacity of ammunition magazines - appear to have a slim chance of clearing the Senate.

And Huffington Post reports on President Obama's reaction:

"This is not my bill, and there are aspects of the agreement that I might prefer to be stronger," Obama said. But he added that the agreement "recognizes that there are good people on both sides of this issue, and we don't have to agree on everything to know that we've got to do something to stem the tide of gun violence."

Obama also acknowledged the rocky path ahead for the deal to become law.

"A lot of work remains," he said. "The Senate must overcome obstruction by defeating a threatened filibuster, and allow a vote on this and other commonsense reforms to protect our kids and our communities. Any bill still has to clear the House. So I'm going to keep asking the American people to stand up and raise their voices, because these measures deserve a vote -- and so do the families and communities they're designed to protect."

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