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Senate Democrats push forward with background checks

Senate Democrats are pushing forward with a plan to require all gun buyers to get a background check before they can buy a firearm.

"Later tonight, I will start the process of bringing a bill to reduce gun violence to the Senate floor. This bill will include the provisions on background checks, school safety and gun trafficking reported by the Judiciary Committee," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement Thursday evening.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) speaks to the press after the weekly Senate Democrats policy luncheon on March 19, 2013 in Washington, DC.

But it's still far from certain that the Senate can pass the background check provision, now considered the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's gun control legislation. Senators are still negotiating the exact language to be used in that provision. 

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin is still talking with Republicans about background checks-- and is in touch with the National Rifle Association -- in an attempt to find compromise language that could garner significant Republican support.

Senate aides say they'll substitute in that compromise language after the Senate returns from recess -- if they can achieve such a compromise.

A proposed assault weapons ban isn't part of the bill -- instead, it will be offered as an amendment.

"The bill I advance tonight will serve as the basis for opening debate. Once debate begins, I will ensure that a ban on assault weapons, limits to high-capacity magazines, and mental health provisions receive votes, along with other amendments," Reid said in his statement.

What does the Senate gun control bill do?

  • Requires a background check for anyone who wants to buy a gun, closing the gun show loophole. This is the most contentious part of the bill, and senators are still trying to find a compromise that can pass the Senate.
  • Makes gun trafficking a federal crime and increases penalties for people who buy a gun for someone else (known as "straw purchasing.") This provision has broad bipartisan support.
  • Helps schools pay for infrastructure to make schools safer -- like reinforced doors -- and training programs for students, faculty and staff. This also has bipartisan support.