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updated: 2/27/2013 10:35 AM

House chairman opposes universal background checks

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Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- The Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said Wednesday he opposes universal background checks on gun sales and doesn't foresee such a measure being part of gun legislation in the House.

Requiring background checks on all gun sales is a top priority of the Obama administration in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, and has appeared to be emerging in the Senate as a possible area of bipartisan consensus.

But Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast with media that such a requirement could unnecessarily inconvenience law-abiding citizens and lead to the creation of a national gun registry -- something Goodlatte and many other Republicans oppose.

"It's not a very practical thing to do and you'll have a lot of inconvenience to law-abiding citizens at the same time you're not going to keep many weapons out of the hands of people who are misusing them," Goodlatte said. "I think there are better ways."

Instead, Goodlatte said he supports strengthening the existing background check system for gun buyers and cracking down on illegal firearms sales.

President Barack Obama proposed near-universal background checks after the December shooting of 20 children and six adults in Connecticut. Currently, the checks are only required for purchases from federally licensed gun dealers, not sales between private individuals at gun shows, online or elsewhere.

Obama also has supported limiting the size of ammunition magazines and renewing a ban on assault weapons, issues that were being examined at a Senate hearing Wednesday. But both those measures are seen as tough to get through Congress. Expanding background checks has been seen as more politically doable, though Goodlatte's comments suggest the expansion could be limited.

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