Coburn fails test as bipartisan bridge on background checks for gun sales

FILE - In this Jan. 25, 2011 file photo, Sen, Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., left, talks with Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., on Capitol Hill in Washington, during President Barack Obama's State of the Union address (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 25, 2011 file photo, Sen, Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., left, talks with Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., on Capitol Hill in Washington, during...

It may not come as the biggest surprise, but Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has now officially lost whatever claim he was able to make on playing a bipartisan role in reforming the nation's gun laws.

Oklahoma's junior senator had been part of a group of four Republicans and Democrats whose negotiations on an expansion of background checks for gun sales led to a series of stories in recent weeks suggesting that some breakthrough might be at hand. But now the leader of that bipartisan group, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has indicated that he's moving forward on the legislation without Coburn's support.

Huffington Post first reported the story and quoted Senate aides who hinted that Coburn's participation in the talks may have been holding things up. (Negotiations, according to one unnamed Capitol Hill Democrat, had gotten to the point where it was time for Coburn to "s--t or get off the pot.")

In the end, Coburn's opposition to a key principal of the legislation—the need to keep records of private-gun sales—proved insurmountable. As Coburn, who has an A-rating from the National Rifle Association, explained during an interview on February 24th, there was no way he was going to support "record-keeping on legitimate, law-abiding gun owners."

Coburn's reservations closely track with Wayne LaPierre's assertion that background checks would lead to the creation of a "massive federal registry" of gun owners.

"It would have been great to have Sen. Coburn, and still would. But no rational strategy would ever have relied on such an unlikely bedfellow," Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, told Politico.

To get the sixty votes which will be required for passage of almost any measure to curb gun violence, Schumer was hoping to bring on board a conservative Republican, who could then give cover to other lawmakers in the GOP who would otherwise be too intimidated by the NRA.

Now that Coburn has fallen out of the picture, what strategy will Schumer and other Democrats follow?

At the moment, Schumer's introducing a much tougher background-check measure as a place-holder for the Senate Judiciary Committee to consider while the search for another Republican co-sponsor continues. The final version of the bill that emerges from the committee will probably resemble the one that Schumer was working on with Coburn, before he bailed out on the talks. Whether that legislation finds enough support in the Senate to see the light of day, however, remains questionable, as does the fate of the other gun-law reforms President Obama unveiled following the the December 14th school shooting in Newtown, CT.