Senators Reach Deal on Universal Background Checks: ‘It’s not gun control’

On Wednesday, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) announced a bipartisan deal that would establish universal background checks on all commercial gun purchases, even those made at gun shows or over the Internet between private buyers and sellers.

At their joint press conference, the two lawmakers expressed a need to reform the nation’s gun laws in the wake of mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which left 26 people dead, including 20 young children.

“Nobody here in this great Capitol of ours with a good conscience could sit by and not try to prevent a day like that from happening again,” said Manchin, referencing the tragedy at Newtown. “I think that’s what we’re doing.”

While discussing the agreement, Toomey, who is a gun owner with an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, called it a “genuine compromise” and said that he did not view it as being at odds with the Second Amendment right of law-abiding citizens.

“I have to tell you candidly that I don’t consider criminal background checks to be gun control,” said Toomey.

Here are some of the key bullet points from the agreement, which is known as “The Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act” (for a complete rundown, click here):


Summary of Title II: This section of the bill requires background checks for sales at gun shows and online while securing certain aspects of 2nd Amendment rights for law abiding citizens.

– Closes the gun show and other loopholes while exempting temporary transfers and transfers between family members.

– Fixes interstate travel laws for sportsmen who transport their firearms across state lines in a responsible manner. The term “transport” includes staying in temporary lodging overnight, stopping for food, buying fuel, vehicle maintenance, and medical treatment.

– Protects sellers from lawsuits if the weapon cleared through the expanded background checks and is subsequently used in a crime. This is the same treatment gun dealers receive now.

– Allows dealers to complete transactions at gun shows that take place in a state for which they are not a resident.

– Requires that 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 completed, the background check would clear in 24 hours. Current law is three business days.

– Requires the FBI to give priority to finalizing background checks at gun shows over checks at store front dealerships.

– Authorizes use of a state concealed carry permit instead of a background check when purchasing a firearm from a dealer.

– Permits interstate handgun sales from dealers.

– Allows active military to buy firearms in their home states.

– Family transfers and some private sales (friends, neighbors, other individuals) are exempt from background checks

For clarification and quick reference, Title 1 of the bill focuses on getting states to report all their available records to the NICS database by withholding federal funding for those states that do not comply.

Title 3 of the bill creates a commission to study the causes of mass violence in the U.S.  The commission will consist of 12 experts — 6 appointed by the House, 6 appointed by the Senate — and they will examine gun ownership, school safety, mental health, and violent media or video games.

Another key component of the agreement is what it will NOT do i.e. how it will not infringe upon the rights of law-abiding gun owners.  Here is the list:


The bill will not take away anyone’s guns.

The bill will not ban any type of firearm.

The bill will not ban or restrict the use of any kind of bullet or any size clip or magazine.

The bill will not create a national registry; in fact, it specifically makes it illegal to establish any such registry.

The bill will not, in any way at all, infringe upon the Constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.

So, to recap, the bill does not create a government registry of law-abiding gun owners.  And certain private transfers (family, friends, neighbors) are exempt.  As Manchin took great care to note, “Personal transfers are not touched whatsoever.”

It appears, then, only private transactions between total strangers at gun shows or online are subject to criminal background checks, which would be facilitated through an FFL or gun shop dealer.  And the FFL would keep a copy of the sales record — not the government.

While many high-profile lawmakers (Sens. Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid, etc.) seemed pleased with the deal, the NRA panned it, saying in so many words that it’s a diversion from the real solutions to crime and gun-related violence.

“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.

“We need a serious and meaningful solution that addresses crime in cities like Chicago, addresses mental health deficiencies, while at the same time protecting the rights of those of us who are not a danger to anyone,” continued the nation’s gun lobby.

“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.”

Tomorrow the Senate is expected to vote on whether to bring Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s gun bill to the floor for a debate.  As noted in a previous article, there are a growing number of senators who plan on filibustering the motion to not allow Reid’s bill to proceed, though Reid has already taken preemptive measures (he filed cloture, which means he needs 60 votes for the bill to reach the floor) to override the filibuster.

“We’re going to vote Thursday,” Reid said Tuesday afternoon. “I’m going to file cloture on the bill tonight. It would be a real slap in the face to the American people not to do something on background checks, on school safety, on illegal trafficking, which everybody thinks is a good idea.”


Here’s how it’s all going to play out.  Reid will probably get the 60 votes he needs to bring his baseline bill to the floor.  His baseline bill includes measures that crack down on straw purchasers and provide additional funding for school safety in addition to containing placeholder language on UBCs.

As the Senate debates the baseline bill over the next few weeks, they will consider at least three amendments.

First is the bipartisan Toomey-Manchin agreement on UBCs.  If adopted, it will replace the UBC language in Reid’s baseline bill.  There is a high probability that it will be approved.

Second is Dianne Feinstein’s ban on ‘assault’ weapons.  Many Washington insiders believe this has a snowball’s chance in hell at being added to the larger package.  But we’ll see.

Third is Frank Lautenberg’s ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.  Like Feinstein’s AWB, this ban faces a real uphill battle.

All that said, what are your thoughts about the UBC agreement?  How do you see things playing out in the Senate?  Will it eventually approve a gun bill that contains a UBC mandate? 

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