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Bipartisan deal on background checks: Biggest gun control win yet?

Two senators announced a bipartisan deal on a gun control bill that would expand background checks. Its passage is hardly assured, but just the compromise is significant.

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Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia (l.) and Republican Sen. Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania arrive at the Capitol in Washington Wednesday to announce that they have reached a bipartisan deal on expanding background checks to more gun buyers.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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In the end, Sen. Pat Toomey would not settle for what so often passes as standing on principle in the Senate: doing nothing at all. 

Instead, the Pennsylvania Republican known best for his deeply conservative fiscal beliefs put his political future on the line for guns, reaching a compromise with Sen. Joe Manchin (D) of West Virginia to expand background checks on firearms transactions at gun shows and for online sales.

The news came the same day that the National Rifle Association gave its blessing to a less-controversial gun measure by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D) of Vermont and Sen. Susan Collins (R) of Maine, which would stiffen penalties for illegal gun purchases and firearms trafficking. Together, the two moves gave a significant boost to President Obama's hopes that the Senate would pass at least some gun legislation in response to the massacre in Newtown, Conn.

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