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Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Mark Wilson, NurPhoto/Getty Images

Two top Senate Democrats are weighing whether gun reform can be a long shot issue proving they can work with Republicans — and don't have to scrap the filibuster after all.

What we're hearing: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) have been privately negotiating how to revise H.R. 8, the House Democrats' background checks bill, to gain support from at least 10 Republicans.

  • As of now, Republicans say the bill is a "nonstarter," since it goes too far to limit gun rights. But GOP lawmakers are increasingly accepting universal background checks for commercial firearms sales and other provisions laid out in the 2013 bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).
  • The politics around background checks also have changed dramatically since 2013, top Democrats point out, as two-thirds of Americans support tougher gun laws.
  • This is the sweet spot they're looking at, sources familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: Democrats think it's now or never to finally find bipartisan compromise on gun reform.

  • They have a president who ran point on this issue as vice president following the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012 and cares deeply about it.
  • They also control both chambers of Congress, and the country is reeling after two deadly mass shootings in two weeks.
  • That said, it may not be enough: Gun control has consistently been an issue in which lawmakers in both parties have tried, and failed, to pass meaningful legislation.

What they're saying: "I think that Republicans have to argue, as a means of defending the current rules, that the Senate can still work under the 60-vote requirement," Murphy said Sunday on "Meet the Press."

  • "I think Republicans may be looking for issues to prove that Democrats don't need to obliterate the filibuster. Here's their opportunity: an issue which has 90 percent support, which doesn't require them to shift their position."
  • "I've gotten a lot of calls from Republicans in the Senate who don't want to fight this fight any longer," Murphy added.
  • "This time feels different. Almost the dawn of a different era," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who also is taking a lead role in gun reform talks, told Axios. "There is such a powerful grassroots movement and political momentum as a result of all of the groups and advocates and activists, survivors, victims, who've come together in a very powerful way."

But, but, but: Many Democrats also fear this effort, like those preceding it, will be futile and lose momentum as the White House shifts the conversation toward other priorities, including infrastructure and any tax increases to pay for it.

  • One senior Democratic aide pointed out the issue barely came up on the Sunday shows today, apart from Murphy's interview on "Meet the Press."
  • It also doesn't help that the Senate broke Thursday afternoon for a two-week recess.

Go deeper

Bipartisan pair of senators say Congress could pass expanded gun background check bill

Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said Sunday's "Meet the Press" they believe that Congress will finally be able to pass legislation on expanded gun background checks.

Why it matters: Recent mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado have brought a renewed focus on the problem of gun violence in America. Last week President Biden called on Congress to take action on gun control.

Updated 5 hours ago - World

Biden in call with Netanyahu raises concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza

Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

President Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Saturday and raised concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza and the bombing of the building that housed AP and other media offices, according to Israeli officials.

The big picture: At least 140 Palestinians, including dozens of children, have been killed in Gaza since fighting between Israel and Hamas began Monday, according to Palestinian health officials. Nine people, including two children, have been killed by Hamas rockets in Israel.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

"Horrified": AP, Al Jazeera condemn Israel's bombing of their offices in Gaza

A ball of fire erupts from the Jalaa Tower as it is destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Associated Press and Al Jazeera on Saturday condemned the Israeli airstrike that destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza that housed their and other media offices.

What they're saying: The White House, meanwhile, said it had "communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility," according to press secretary Jen Psaki.