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Sen. Jeff Flake: Universal background checks 'a bridge too far'

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Sen. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, said Sunday that universal background checks on all gun sales are “a bridge too far for most of us” as Democrats try to cobble together a package that can win 60 votes in the Senate.

“We do need to strengthen the background check system, but universal background checks, I think, is a bridge too far for most of us,” Mr. Flake said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “The paperwork requirements alone would be significant.”

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Mr. Flake — along with Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, and Democratic Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark L. Pryor of Arkansas — has introduced legislation intended to clarify issues surrounding mental illness and which people are legally barred from buying or owning a firearm.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, has introduced a bill that would require near-universal background checks for all gun sales, but said he’s still hunting for a measure that can get 60 votes in the Senate. His bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a straight party-line vote after bipartisan talks on compromise legislation broke down over the issue of record-keeping on gun sales.

“I’m working very hard with both Democrats and Republicans, pro-NRA and anti-NRA people, to come up with a background check bill that will be acceptable to 60 senators and be very strong and get the job done,” Mr. Schumer said. “It’s very hard, we’re working hard, and I’m very hopeful that we can get this passed.”

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg recently launched a $12 million ad campaign targeting both Republicans and Democratic senators on gun control. Mr. Schumer said he greatly respects Mr. Bloomberg’s passion on the issue, arguing that the ads and field organization have always been on the pro-gun side of the issue.

But some of the Democratic senators targeted by Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign represent red states and are up for re-election in 2014, and Mr. Schumer parsed his words carefully on potential votes.

“Obviously each senator is going to have to make up his own or her own mind, and I respect that,” he said.

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