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.”
Manchin and Toomey’s Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act would require states and the federal government to send all necessary records on criminals and the violently mentally ill to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
It prohibits the federal government from establishing a national firearms registry, and makes any person who misuses or illegally retains firearms records subject to up to 15 years in prison.
It allows dealers to voluntarily use the NICS database to run background checks on their prospective employees and provides a legal process for a veteran to contest his or her placement in NICS when there is no basis for barring the right to own a firearm. Last Congress, Senate Republicans failed to get language in the defense bill that would have stopped the Veterans Affairs Department from putting the names of vets deemed too mentally incompetent to handle their finances into the NICS to prohibit them from buying or owning a gun.
If a background check at a gun show does not result in a definitive response from NICS within 48 hours, the sale may proceed. After four years, when the NICS improvements are expected to be completed, Manchin and Toomey say the background check would clear in 24 hours. Current law is three business days. The bill requires the FBI to give priority to finalizing background checks at gun shows over checks at store front dealerships.
It also authorizes use of a state concealed carry permit instead of a background check when purchasing a firearm from a dealer.