Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) told reporters on a conference call moments ago that his compromise bill with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on gun background checks “doesn’t change in any way” his “conservative record or views.”
The former Club for Growth president acknowledged he was out of his usual legislative area on the issue, but “it became clear to me a bill of some sort was very likely to reach the floor” that would be “badly flawed,” so he reached out to his friend and neighboring state senator Manchin to sit down and talk.
“You’re probably used to hearing me talk about economic and fiscal and monetary policy,” Toomey said. “This is a somewhat unusual area for me to be working with.”
Toomey and Manchin unveiled their proposal at a press conference this morning, which extends background checks to gun shows and Internet sales but does not require record-keeping on private sales and does not extend to gifts, family or friend sales, etc.
“I thought there was an opportunity to try to find some common ground with some of my colleagues,” said Toomey on the conference call afterward. “Background checks are not a perfect solution… but they do help.”
“I think it strikes a very sensible balance,” he added.
The senators received assurance from Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that theirs would be the first amendment should the Democrats’ package of gun bills move past the 60-vote threshold to consideration tomorrow.
The Manchin-Toomey amendment would strike the background check language in Reid’s bill — sweeping, universal checks — and insert the compromise language.
Toomey, who’s been under fire from conservatives for inking out a compromise, said he hasn’t “counted noses” to see what chance the language has of passing. He vowed to vote against any amendments to add language about high-capacity clips or the assault weapons ban to the bill, calling that a violation of Second Amendment rights.
“People are going to have a wide range of opinions,” he said. “I don’t think trying to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals is gun control… I don’t expect everyone to agree with me.”
The National Rifle Association, in a statement issued after the press conference, did not.
“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. 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,” the NRA said.
“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.”