Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn is blocking quick Senate passage of legislation designed to strengthen gun buyer background checks.

The draft measure, backed by gun control groups and the National Rifle Association (NRA), would make more electronic data available to states for checking the criminal and mental health records of people who want to purchase guns.

The Senate Judiciary Committee included the gun-check language in a broader school safety bill (S 2084) it approved in August, two months after the House passed a similar background-check bill (HR 2640).

Senate Democrats decided to take up the narrower background-check language on the floor first and were poised to pass it earlier this week, until Coburn objected.

Coburn has some “privacy concerns” about the measure and also objects to new spending authorizations that would not be offset by reductions, according to his spokesman, John Hart. “If supporters want this to be a top priority, they should locate lower-priority items to help fund it,” Hart said.

The measure would authorize new funding to help states enter felony convictions and mental disability and domestic violence records in the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Gun dealers use NICS, which was created by a 1993 law (PL 103-159), to determine whether a person qualifies to buy a firearm.

Compared with the House bill, the Senate version would provide more money to states and give them more time to comply with the new requirements before facing penalties, and would shorten the period of time that records would be searched. But the measure’s biggest House supporter, Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., “fully supports” those changes, said her spokesman, George Burke.

“There are slight changes, but the core and crux are consistent,” said Burke, who indicated that McCarthy has already begun talking with House Democratic leaders about passing the Senate version to avoid a conference on the measure.

The House measure’s quick passage followed negotiations by McCarthy and NRA ally John D. Dingell, D-Mich., that led to the addition of language explicitly protecting the ability of veterans designated as having psychological conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, to buy guns. It also would authorize procedures to allow those successfully treated for mental illness to be able to buy guns.

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