Both parties agree that stiffer penalties are needed to stifle gun trafficking and straw purchases, when someone legally buys a gun to give to a criminal or someone else not allowed to have one. Currently, law enforcement officials prosecute the practice with laws that forbid lying on forms for gun purchases, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The bill was approved after Grassley inserted language requiring the Justice Department to take steps aimed at preventing a repeat of the agency's botched Fast and Furious gun smuggling investigation. Republicans, who also expressed worries that people might be prosecuted for unwittingly giving firearms to someone who ends up using them in a crime, indicated GOP support could grow if some changes are made.
Expanding background checks is the cornerstone of Democrats' gun proposals. That effort suffered a setback this week when Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., dropped efforts to write a compromise with Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
Coburn's blessing could have won crucial support from Republicans and moderate Democrats because he is a solid conservative with an A-rating from the National Rifle Association. Schumer and two allies — moderate Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill. — said they would continue seeking compromise with other Republicans.
Background checks are now required for sales by the nation's 55,000 federally licensed gun dealers, not for private sales between individuals, like those at gun shows or online.
The school aid measure by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and others would provide $40 million a year in grants for reinforced school doors and other security measures, plus create a new program with existing funds to improve college safety.
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