Senators negotiating a bill mandating background checks for all gun buyers are privately expecting the National Rifle Association not to fight the measure -- provided the legislation does not require private gun sellers to maintain records of the checks, NBC News has learned.
If that requirement is met and key Republican negotiator Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma signs on, the powerful gun lobby has signaled to lawmakers that they would not actively oppose the bill -- and not count votes in favor of it as part of its highly influential NRA lawmaker ratings -- according to Senate aides familiar with the stalled negotiations.
Such a deal could clear the way for a universal background check bill, a central tenet of President Barack Obama's gun control initiative, to pass the Senate with significant Republican support. Odds of passage in the House would brighten significantly as a result.
The NRA denies being part of any agreement. "We do not take positions on hypotheticals. We will make our position known if and when legislation is introduced," said Chris Cox, the group's top lobbyist.
The NRA is still adamantly opposed to expanding background checks to private sales. "To be clear, the National Rifle Association does not support legislation that would criminalize otherwise lawful transfers of firearms between law abiding Americans," Cox said.
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