Sen. Tom Coburn Could Be Biggest Obstacle to Gun Control Changes


After the Newtown, Conn., shooting, stronger mental-health checks have surfaced as the most obvious common ground for bipartisan gun reform.

"We have to, I think, look at the mental health aspect," conservative Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said during ABC's "This Week" roundtable after the shooting. "I'm a conceal carry permit-holder. I own a Glock 23. I've got a shotgun. I'm not the person you need to worry about. And there are millions of Americans who deal with this properly. It's our Second Amendment right to do so. But we have to look at the mental health access that these people have."

But as Congress found out in 2007, revamping mental-health provisions can be difficult. Some of Coburn's objections centered on complicated details, like repealed funding for state processing of petitions to reinstate gun rights, allowance of lawsuits to restore gun rights, and how to treat veterans who have recovered from comas. His problems with the 2007 bill serve as reminders of how many decisions must be made when reforming background checks, and how many opportunities for disagreement can arise.

Coburn wants to keep guns from reaching the hands of the mentally ill. In January 2011, he appeared on "Meet the Press" and said, "Let's fix the real problem," discussing the shooting of then-congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. "Here's a mentally deranged person who had access to a gun that shouldn't have had access to a gun." But the same issues raised in 2007 are still controversial: Last month, Coburn and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., battled over veterans' gun rights when the annual defense authorization bill came up for debate.

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