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Hope fades for a bipartisan deal on gun background checks, key Democratic negotiator says


Sen. Chris Murphy, who’s been leading the charge to secure a long-shot bipartisan deal on a gun background checks bill, told CNN on Thursday he thinks “it’s close” to the point where “we’ve got to put a bill on the floor,” a signal that hopes for a bipartisan agreement have faded and Democrats are all but guaranteed to move forward with a vote on House-passed bills that have no chance of passing in the Senate.

The Connecticut Democrat noted that he hasn’t spoken to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer about this timeline for a vote, but “in my head, that’s always been my timing.”

“I just don’t want to be involved in endless negotiations if we’re not getting to a conclusion,” added Murphy, who has been a vocal advocate for stricter gun control since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in his state.

Democrats hold a slim 50-50 majority in the Senate and would need significant GOP support to overcome a legislative filibuster. With House-passed gun bills unlikely to get the 60 votes needed to pass in the upper chamber, Democrats have held out hope for months on the possibility of a more narrow bipartisan deal expanding background checks on firearm sales.

“I think there’s clearly a point coming where we’ve got to put a bill on the floor — I think Senator Schumer’s been clear about that,” Murphy said, apparently referring to gun legislation approved by the House in March to expand background checks on all commercial gun sales. “We’re gonna work this work period and try to come to an agreement, but if we come back in June and we don’t have a bipartisan deal then I think we’ve got to move forward on universal or commercial sales.”

Murphy, who’s been consistently optimistic about a deal despite steep odds, reiterated how he thinks there’s still a chance — and said he’ll continue to work on it next week and over the Memorial Day recess but that “time’s running short.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the other Connecticut Democrat who is also a strong advocate for gun safety measures, has been holding talks with Republican senators as well and has been blunt about the uphill prospects.

While Murphy said the talks are “still moving,” he acknowledged that by this point he had hoped to have made “more progress” with his Republican colleagues.

He attributed some of the delay to the complexities of creating a law expanding background checks without much data to work off of.

“This is complex,” he said. “Even though it doesn’t look like a complex law it is because when you’re trying to expand background checks you don’t have a lot of good data. You don’t know anything about the sales you don’t know about. So all these sales that are happening online, at gun shows, without background checks it’s hard to draw a law and know how far into that dark universe you’re going to get.”

He continued, “It has been tricky. We’ve been working with experts and getting technical assistance from the administration. So, there has been reasons for the delay.”

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