Senators Joe Manchin (pictured above) and Pat Toomey introduced a bipartisan proposal Wednesday to expand background checks to more gun purchases.
The West Virginia Democrat and Pennsylvania Republican want to expand background checks from being performed only at certain dealers to being performed for any and all commercial guns sales. Gun buyers would have to undergo a background check to buy a gun at a gun show or online, but private sales would remain exempt.
“Candidly, I don’t consider criminal background checks to be gun control,” Toomey said. “I think it’s just common sense.”
Toomey asserted that there are a number of gun control proposals that he does consider infringement of people’s rights under the second amendment. Today’s proposal is not one of them. Their background check proposal does not prevent any lawful individuals from acquiring firearms.
“I’ve not taken a very high profile role on this issue,” Toomey said. “What became apparent to me in the course of this debate, there is the danger that we might end up accomplishing nothing, and not making progress where we could.”
Manchin hopes this will be the beginning of a debate that ends with the Senate and House of Representatives presenting productive legislation that President Barack Obama can sign into law.
“This amendment is the first step in a common ground that all of us agree is crucial, to keep guns out of dangerous hands and keep our children safe,” Manchin said.
The proposal contains perks to entice gun rights advocates. The measure would make it easier to transport guns across state lines. Members of the military would also be able to purchase firearms more easily. Toomey and Manchin, who both have “A” ratings with the NRA, expressed that their proposal could serve as a foundation for eventually allowing concealed carry permits to be recognized nationwide.
The NRA has already expressed its opposition to the legislation.
“Expanding background checks at gun shows will not prevent the next shooting, will not solve violent crime and will not keep our kids safe in schools,” the NRA said in a statement. “While the overwhelming rejection of President Obama and Mayor Bloomberg’s ‘universal’ background check agenda is a positive development, we have a broken mental health system that is not going to be fixed with more background checks at gun shows.”
Last year, John Shick went on a shooting spree at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Pittsburgh, the second largest city that Toomey represents. Shick acquired firearms from a man in a New Mexico parking lot who had no knowledge of Shick’s prior arrest history and poor mental health.
Nevertheless, the NRA continues to assert that no background check would have prevented any of the tragedies in Newtown, Aurora, or Tucson.
“President Obama should be as committed to dealing with the gang problem that is tormenting honest people in his hometown as he is to blaming law-abiding gun owners for the acts of psychopathic murderers,” the NRA said.
During the press conference, Toomey (pictured below) sought to reduce oppositions from conservative politicians inclined to follow the NRA’s lead.
“The worries that we hear sometimes about background checks leading to an erosion of our second amendment rights – that simply hasn’t happened,” Toomey said. “And we’ve got to make sure that it doesn’t.”
The bill faces a difficult future ahead. The Democratic leadership in the Senate has expressed an openness to allowing Republicans introduce amendments to the legislation. Yet even if a gun control proposal passes the Senate, it faces stronger opposition in the House, which has a substantial Republican majority.
Toomey and Manchin’s bipartisan background check proposal really is just the beginning. Stay tuned.