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Democratic Senator seeks to bolster gun checks

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. states should turn over more records to a national list of people barred from buying guns or face rising penalties, Sen. Charles Schumer said in introducing new legislation to Congress on Wednesday.

The proposal is part of efforts to keep those who could not pass background checks from buying guns, spurred by the January 8 shootings in Tucson, Arizona which left six people dead and wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others.

The U.S. maintains a database of people with a criminal record, psychiatric problems or other disqualifying problems, and gun dealers are required to run a background check on anyone attempting to buy a handgun.

Many states, including Arizona, have been slow in furnishing records to the FBI's "Do Not Sell" list, said Schumer, a New York Democrat.

"If our law was on the books, Jared Loughner would not have gotten a gun," Schumer said at a news conference, referring to the suspect in the Arizona shootings who engaged in bizarre and disruptive behavior well before the shooting.

Loughner was rejected by the U.S. military due to drug use, Schumer said, a record that should have been passed on to the national database and which may have prevented the gun sale.

If the legislation passed, states would have until 2018 to share 90 percent of their records of people prohibited from buying guns, such as drug abusers and the mentally ill.

States that do not meet the requirement would face increasing penalties.

In addition, the legislation seeks to make gun show sellers check if potential buyers are listed on the national database. It also would compel the military to share all its records.

Under current law, a person buying a gun at a gun show is not required to undergo a background check, an anomaly that gun control advocates consider to be a loophole.

Despite the Arizona shooting, Schumer's proposal is unlikely to become U.S. law any time soon because of the strong influence of gun control opponents in Washington.

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution preserves the right of citizens to bear arms, and gun rights advocates such as the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) jealously guard this right.

No significant gun control legislation has passed the U.S. Congress since Democratic President Barack Obama took office in 2009 and the resistance is expected to be even stiffer now that Republicans have taken majority control of the House of Representatives.

(Reporting by Basil Katz, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Greg McCune)

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