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Senate gun package heads to a vote Thursday after bipartisan compromise

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), right, and Sen. Joe

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), right, and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) speak to the press about background checks for gun purchases in the U.S. Capitol building in Washington. The pair is proposing a bipartisan compromise, a proposal to be voted on as an amendment that would expand background checks to firearms sales at gun shows and on the Internet. (April 10, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

WASHINGTON -- The Senate gun package heads to a crucial vote to break a filibuster Thursday after a breakthrough bipartisan compromise on expanding gun buyer background checks.

With that deal announced Wednesday, backers of the bill said they believe they have the needed 60 votes from both sides of the aisle to end the filibuster by 14 conservatives.

If they do, the Senate next week will begin debate and consideration of amendments for a bill that contains background checks, a ban on so-called straw purchases -- in which someone buys a gun for a person who can't legally obtain one -- and school safety funding.

The compromise on background checks to screen out felons, the mentally ill and other ineligible buyers -- the heart of the package -- was announced by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), both with "A" ratings from the National Rifle Association.

Under the deal, background checks would be required for firearm sales at gun shows and over the Internet, but not in private deals between individuals.

The original bill required universal background checks. But its sponsor, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), said he'll co-sponsor the compromise as the first amendment to the gun bill next week.

The agreement between Manchin, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Toomey makes it easier for Republicans and wavering Democrats to back the bill.

"I don't consider criminal background checks 'gun control.' It's common sense," said Toomey, once president of the conservative Club for Growth.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he and his group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, strongly back the deal.

Some gun-safety activists expressed disappointment.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) said, "I would have preferred universal background checks, but that's something that wouldn't get through the House. But 90 percent background checks -- that's a start."

In a statement, President Barack Obama said, "There are aspects of the agreement that I might prefer to be stronger. But the agreement does represent welcome and significant bipartisan progress."

Schumer, who defended the deal as "a major, major accomplishment," said he called Bloomberg and Vice President Joe Biden to urge their support.

The deal gets "about 80 percent" of what was wanted and achieves the 10-year dream of closing the gun-show loophole, he said. It also requires checks for online deals -- "the fastest growing area of sales of guns."

The NRA said the deal represents an "overwhelming rejection" of universal background checks. But the NRA said that even the compromise's expansion of background checks won't stop the next shooting. The NRA wrote senators last night to tell them it is "unequivocally opposed" to the gun package.

Meanwhile, Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) said he reached an agreement with the NRA on the straw purchase ban to ensure that a dealer isn't held liable for a crime by a future owner of a gun he sold.Co-sponsor Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) called the deal "another important step forward towards a consensus bill that can pass and save lives."

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