Washington (CNN) – A group of four senators working behind the scenes on a bipartisan bill to expand background checks on gun sales is making significant progress, according to sources in both parties familiar with their work.
The group includes Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, who has an A rating with the National Rifle Association, Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, a long time advocate of gun rights, and Chuck Schumer, D-New York, a long time supporter of gun control.
CNN is told the legislation they are working on would effectively require background checks on private gun purchases made with non-licensed gun dealers, according to sources in both parties. That would include closing the so-called gun show loophole.
However, the sources emphasize they are trying to work through this sticky issue so that Republicans, especially Coburn, are comfortable that it would address privacy concerns of gun owners, and would have clear exemptions for situations where a background check should not be needed. The most common example of that scenario is a grandfather or uncle giving guns they already own to a grandson or nephew.
The senators are also talking about finding ways to beef up the existing federal data base for background checks. The current system has significant holes and problems, not the least of which is that many states do not send data into the system.
If the group can come up with a bipartisan proposal, it would become the most likely legislation related to gun violence to pass the Senate, mostly because Coburn – with his bone fides as a supporter of gun rights – will give political cover to Republicans as well as conservative Democrats who may be reluctant to sign on for fear of getting hammered by the NRA and gun owners back home.
One of the sources said the talks are going better than many bipartisan talks on any issue have gone in some time, but the source emphasized that they still have work to do before a bill will be ready to be unveiled.
These talks are going on as the Senate Judiciary chairman is holding hearings and working towards finding common ground on gun legislation that he can bring for a vote in his committee sometime within the next month.