Editorial: Compromise on gun legislation unfortunately dead


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The Toomey-Manchin Amendment, the bipartisan compromise forged by Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Joe Manchin, D-W.V., that would have reduced loopholes in the federal background checks for gun sales, failed to garner the 60 votes it needed to move forward in the Senate Wednesday.

The amendment received 54 votes and, as a result, legislation that would have expanded background checks for gun sales to include private sales and in-state online sales is almost certainly dead. During Wednesday’s marathon vote in the Senate, all of the proposed amendments to the Democratic gun-control bill were struck down, meaning that there will almost surely be no new gun control legislation in the near future.

The Toomey-Manchin compromise was crafted as an answer to complaints among Republicans and conservative Democrats that the original gun-legislation proposal may have prohibited temporary gun transfers to family and friends. Toomey-Manchin exempted these transfers from expanded background checks.

But if it’s not one thing, it’s another. In the days leading up to Wednesday afternoon’s fateful vote, the NRA put out a statement in opposition to the amendment, arguing that expanding background checks would not reduce the incidence of gun violence but offering no further explanation of that point.

But certainly offering fewer ways for prospective gun buyers to circumvent mandatory background checks couldn’t hurt.

Conservative Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, articulated another argument against the Toomey-Manchin Amendment on the Senate floor Wednesday. He argued that the expanded background-check provisions could lead to a national registry of gun owners, something that pro-gun legislators believe could be used to limit gun rights in the future.

Never mind that Toomey-Manchin explicitly prohibited the government from creating such a registry and made it a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison for anyone to use background-check data to establish a database of gun owners.

The simple fact of the matter is that our devoutly pro-gun senators have no interest in making it more difficult for anyone to buy a gun and feel no need to articulate a reasonable case against a background check provision supported by 90 percent of the American public, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Indeed, the conservative counterproposals to Toomey-Manchin that also died Wednesday in the Senate would have made it easier to buy, sell, and carry guns.

On Wednesday, Cruz and our own Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, introduced their own alternative gun legislation that would have slightly increased funding for law enforcement, school safety, and mental-health care. But this bill would also have made it easier to buy and sell guns by allowing interstate firearm sales and interstate transportation of weapons.

Cruz-Grassley included no provision to expand background checks.

Another amendment introduced by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, would have introduced a national reciprocity program by which every state’s concealed-carry laws would have been honored nationwide. This would have, in effect, made the nation’s weakest concealed-carry law the de facto law for the entire country.

It is clear that the nation’s pro-gun senators — Grassley included — have no interest in responding to the wishes of the people to expand background checks; they would rather use these negotiations to further liberalize the gun marketplace that has contributed to the deaths of countless Americans.

The death of Toomey-Manchin and of gun legislation more broadly in the Senate speaks volumes about the disastrously misplaced priorities and the stunning lack of responsiveness of Chuck Grassley and his NRA-beholden colleagues.

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