Some bipartisan gun control ground found at hearing

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Despite stark areas of disagreement on the need for  additional gun control, Republican senators on Wednesday told their Democrat colleagues that there exists common support for strengthening background checks and making gun trafficking a federal offense.

In a Jan. 30 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, the committee's ranking member, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), said he is willing to work with Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on legislation targeting traffickers who buy guns for those who are banned from possessing them.

"There are some gaps in this area of the law that should be closed," said Grassley, "I do think, Mr. Chairman, that we may be able to work together."

At the hearing, Leahy said (.pdf) an estimated 40 percent of gun purchases do not require background checks since they're bought a gun shows or small events where the transactions are exempt from checks. He advocated for closing these loopholes and expanding all background checks to include mental health checks.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the Senate should consider checks that screen for court-ordered mental health treatment and that this is an area "where Congress can come together right now."

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), told the committee he is in the process of developing legislation on background checks related to these purchases and for purchases at gun shows. Schumer says he is "having productive conversations with colleagues on both sides of the aisle, including a good number with high [National Rifle Association] ratings."

Leahy said he hopes to begin committee votes on legislation in February and quickly bring that to the floor for a vote.

Leahy has already introduced an anti-trafficking bill (S.54) and on Wednesday Senators Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) introduced their own, S.179, which is the first bipartisan gun control bill introduced in the Senate since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary on Dec. 14.

Former Arizona representative Gabrielle Giffords testified at the hearing, saying that common ground must be found: "It will be hard, but the time is now. You must act." Giffords was gravely wounded during a January 2011 mass shooting in Tucson that claimed the lives of six, including that of a 9 year old girl.

At the hearing, there was no common ground on an assault weapon or high-capacity magazine ban, with some Democrats calling for it, other Democrats not mentioning it and some Republicans speaking out against it. These bans have been called for repeatedly by President Obama.

The committee says it plans to hold two more hearings on gun control and safety measures, including one that will focus solely on Second Amendment concerns.

For more:
- go to the hearing webpage (archived webcast available)

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