Gun Control Debate: Toomey, Manchin Need More Votes On Background Checks Bill

 @LauraMatt
on April 14 2013 6:04 PM
US Gun Shop
Even if a background checks bill squeaks through the Senate, it stands little chance in the House, which is controlled by the GOP and dominated by conservative wings of both the Republican and Democratic parties. Reuters

The bipartisan U.S. Senate duo who recently unveiled a proposal to expand background checks to all commercial gun sales said Sunday they expect a vote on their amendment by Wednesday or Thursday, but that they still need more support to pass the measure.

Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., both appeared on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” Sunday, saying they are close to garnering the votes required to pass their amendment to the 2013 gun-control bill, but need a few more.

The two lawmakers will take to the Senate floor Monday to go through each section and line of their 49-page proposal, which is aimed at making it harder for criminals and the mentally ill to get hold of firearms.

“We’re working it. We are discussing with colleagues on both sides,” Toomey told host Bob Schieffer when asked whether the measure has enough votes. “We’ve got bipartisan support, but there’s bipartisan opposition [as well]. We have others that we are confident about. I am not sure they’ve announced it, so I don’t want to announce on their behalf.”

Sixteen Republicans voted last week to move the bill forward, defeating a filibuster mounted by colleagues who believe the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment would be infringed by any action on gun control. The Democrats’ main gun-control measure passed by a 68-31 vote with an open-amendment process under way.

At least two Republican senators so far publicly support the Manchin-Toomey compromise.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was the first to reveal Saturday that she will vote in favor of tighter gun laws. Toomey said Sunday that his bill has the support of Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois.

Meanwhile, uncertainty appears to reign among the Senate’s vote counters.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who serves as the majority whip, the second-ranking position in his caucus, said he hasn’t done a vote count yet.

“We haven't whipped it,” Durbin said on “Fox News Sunday.” Elaborating, he said: “I can tell you this. When it gets down to it, we’ve got to ask the basic question, 'Should we try to keep guns out of the hands of felons and people so mentally unstable, they shouldn’t own a firearm?' If the answer is 'Yes,' Manchin-Toomey is a step in that direction.”

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who serves as the minority whip, on the same show could not say whether he has the votes to oppose the background-checks measure.

“Well, I’m interested in the debate and discussion,” Cornyn said. “I would just make the point that if Manchin-Toomey were the law of the land today, none of the four of the most recent mass tragedies involved in gun violence would have been prevented.”

Gun-Rights Lobbying Group Gives Support

Despite the uncertainty, the Manchin-Toomey background-checks agreement has scored its biggest victory yet with the support of the gun-rights lobbying group Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.

Alan Gottleib, the committee's chairman, said he and the group's attorney lobbyist helped with the proposal. 

“You can see all the advances for our cause that it contains, like interstate sales of handguns, veteran gun-rights restoration, travel with firearms protection, civil and criminal immunity lawsuit protection if you sell a gun, plus more,” Gottleib said. “It also exempts the sale or transfer of firearms between family members and friends as well as sales outside a commercial venue from a background check. If you have any kind of current state permit to own, use or carry, no check is done, just the Form 4473 to stay with a dealer.”

Gottlieb added that these advances cannot be implemented unless the Manchin-Toomey agreement is successful next week and replaces the “draconian”background checks originally proposed by Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.

Manchin said of the plan to explain the entire proposal beginning Monday, “I think the more that people will take the time to learn more about this bill, we will get more support.”

The National Rifle Association, or NRA, the largest and most powerful gun lobbying group in the U.S., has rebuffed the compromise, arguing it won’t prevent mass shootings.

“At the end of the day, [the NRA] won’t be with us on this,” Manchin said. “I just would hope that they would allow their members to see the facts and let them vote with their conscience.”

Toomey, who like Manchin holds an “A” rating from the NRA, said he isn’t concerned about being penalized by the group.

“I don’t know,” Toomey told Schieffer. “The chips will fall where they fall. I think my job is to do what I think is right.”

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