Federal data on gun purchases is gathered by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is run by the FBI.
According to Justice Department estimates, the federal and state governments ran 108 million background checks of firearms sales between 1994 when the requirement became law and 2009. Of those, 1.9 million — almost 2 percent — were denied, usually because would-be purchasers had criminal records.
People legally judged to be "mentally defective" are among those blocked by federal law from firearms purchases. States are supposed to make mental health records available to the federal background check system and receive more generous Justice Department grants if they do, but many provide little or no such data because of privacy concerns or antiquated record-keeping systems.
Coburn got involved in the background check talks about two weeks ago and says a compromise could make it harder for dangerous people to acquire firearms.
"The whole goal is to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and criminals," he said in a brief interview.
Manchin could be particularly influential with Democrats like Sens. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., who face re-election next year in deeply Republican states. Besides being an NRA member, Manchin ran a campaign ad in 2010 in which he promised to defend West Virginian's Second Amendment rights to bear arms and "take on" the Obama administration — all while shooting a hole in a copy of a Democratic bill that would have clamped limits on greenhouse gases — another sore spot for a coal-mining state like West Virginia.
In an interview, Manchin said that besides hoping for a background check compromise, he wanted inclusion of a commission that would study "how our culture has gotten so desensitized toward violence."
Participating senators declined to provide details of the talks. But people following the discussions say the talks have touched on:
—The types of family relatives who would be allowed to give guns to each other without a background check.
—Possibly exempting sales in remote areas.
—Whether to help some veterans who sought treatment for traumatic stress disorder — now often barred from getting firearms — become eligible to do so.
An NRA spokesman, Andrew Arulanandam, declined to comment on the senators' discussions.
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