Senators Pat Toomey and Joe Manchin just announced a major breakthrough on gun-control legislation today, regarding the central feature in the gun legislation bill: the expansion of background checks on gun sales. The key negotiations come just in time for the Senate vote tomorrow, which will be the most significant debate about gun control since the 1994 federal crime bill. The bill will need to achieve a baseline of 60 votes in the Senate in order to move forward.
The bill aims to increase background checks regarding all transactions of commercial guns—including those at gun shows and online. The expanded checks will be conducted by a federal firearm license holder rather than through an online platform. The bill will also require some sort of record-taking at these transactions, but will not require individuals to keep records and will specifically prevent "the federal government from creating a national firearms registry."
The bill will also start a commission "to study the causes of mass violence in the United States, looking at all aspects of the problem"—aspects that include school safety, violent video games, mental health, as well the prevalence of firearms. The proposed bill will penalize states that do not update the National Instant Criminal Background Check System with records of felons or the mentally ill. Polls show that 90% of Americans support some sort of universal background check.
Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, and Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, are the chief negotiators of the compromise. At a Capitol Hill news conference earlier today, Senator Toomey stated:
"I don't consider criminal background checks to be gun control. It's just common sense. If you pass ... you get to buy a gun. It's the people who fail that we don't want having guns."
Senator Manchin expanded the sentiments:
"We strengthen rights of law-abiding gun owners to keep people from having guns who shouldn't have them."