Giffords did not address the lawmakers.
In a blow to gun control advocates, Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., became the latest Republican to say he will oppose a bipartisan compromise broadening background checks.
“I believe that this legislation could lead to the creation of a national gun registry and puts additional burdens on law-abiding citizens,” he said.
Before the lunch, Giffords and Kelly met privately with Manchin and Toomey. Their compromise would expand background checks to cover gun shows and the Internet, a plan gun control supporters think gives them the best chance of pushing a broader system of checks through the Senate.
“They’re helping immensely just by being here and talking to our colleagues. We’re close, but we sure need their help,” Manchin said after that meeting.
Manchin and Toomey were no longer considering a change to their bill to exempt people who live far from gun dealers, making it difficult to go to the dealers’ shops to have background checks performed. The hope had been to attract votes from Alaska and North Dakota senators, and the sponsors’ decision to move ahead without it seemed to suggest that the effort to win over those senators would fail.
Background checks are aimed at weeding out criminals and the seriously mentally ill from getting firearms. The current background check system applies only to transactions with licensed gun dealers.
President Barack Obama, in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show, urged lawmakers to pay attention to public support for expanding background checks and remember the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“The notion that Congress would defy the overwhelming instinct of the American people after what we saw happen in Newtown, I think is unimaginable,” Obama said in the interview, aired Tuesday.
National Rifle Association spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said the organization was spending $500,000 on an online video ad on conservative and Washington-area websites that cites a survey from a police-oriented website showing opposition to gun control proposals. “Tell your senator to listen to America’s police, instead of listening to Obama and Bloomberg,” said the ad, referring to gun control advocate Michael Bloomberg, New York City mayor.