A coalition of House Republicans is willing to thwart the National Rifle Association’s opposition to broadening background checks for U.S. gun purchases. That may be President Barack Obama’s best chance for advancing tougher gun regulations this year. [...]Gun-control advocates caution that the group of Republicans tentatively supporting extending background checks to all purchases of guns is no more than 40 representatives, less than a fifth of the House Republican caucus. But that number might grow depending on what the Senate does. Forty GOP reps might, in fact, be enough to pass an expanded background check. But they might also seek to narrow the "universal" element in return for their support.
The loose alliance of Republicans, largely from urban districts in the Northeast and states including Virginia that have been the sites of mass shootings in the past several years, is also focused on regulations involving mental health reporting of firearms buyers and gun trafficking as first steps in combating gun violence.
That GOP support may have a bit to do with the fact that polls since the 12/14 elementary school slaughter in Newtown, Connecticut, have repeatedly shown more than 90 percent of Americans say they favor extending background checks. In the most recent Quinnipiac Poll, 89 percent of Republicans and 96 percent of Democrats back the wider checks. Among the Republican representatives saying they do or might support the expansion: Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania; Scott Rigell of Virginia; John Duncan of Tennessee and Peter King of New York.
Currently, only sales conducted by federally licensed dealers are subject to federal background checks. Sales or swaps of legally owned guns between private individuals, either at gun shows or over the backyard fence, are not covered by the checks carried out by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System run by the FBI.
While the National Rifle Association, the gun industry's mouthpiece, and some other critics have claimed that expanding background checks would make little difference, that hasn't been the experience in 14 states and the District of Columbia that have broader checks than federal law provides.
In Colorado, after it was discovered some of the weapons used in the Columbine school massacre in 1999 had been obtained from a private individual at a gun show, the state extended background checks to all gun sales in 2000. Since then, according to Rhonda Fields, a Democratic representative in the Colorado legislature, the results have been dramatic. Among all states in 2000, Colorado was the 17th-largest source of guns found at crime scenes. A year later, it had fallen to 27th. By 2009 it ranked 32nd, Fields said.