April 15, 2013

Bipartisan support for background checks remains uncertain

DINA CAPPIELLO, The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The fate of a bipartisan Senate effort to subject more firearms buyers to background checks remains uncertain as seven Republicans amenable to a gun control debate are still likely to resist such an expansion.

click image to enlarge

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

The Associated Press

On an initial showdown over the gun control bill last week, 16 Republicans voted to reject a conservative effort to derail the measure, a roll call that allowed debate on the legislation to begin. Gun control supporters are hoping they can get enough votes from this group to help win approval for expanded background checks, the cornerstone of the effort by President Barack Obama and others to reduce firearms violence.

So far, seven of the 16 have said they will oppose the bipartisan background check proposal, or are leaning toward doing so. Four said they will support it or are likely to, and the remaining members of that group haven't indicated a position.

The Senate starts debate Tuesday on an amendment by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., that would expand background checks to cover transactions at gun shows and the Internet. The system, aimed at stopping criminals and others from getting firearms, now covers only sales handled by licensed gun dealers.

"The Toomey-Manchin proposal, while well-intentioned, is not a solution to illegal gun violence. We already have major holes in the current" background check system, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Monday in a written statement. Graham was among the 16 who voted to allow the gun control debate to begin.

Two Democrats, both facing re-election next year in GOP-leaning states, voted against beginning the gun control debate last week.

Spokesman Devon Kearns said that Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, is still reviewing the amendment, while aides to Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., did not immediately return emails and a phone call. Some Democrats from conservative-leaning states are expected to oppose the Manchin-Toomey plan.

There are 53 Democrats and two-Democratic-leaning independents in the Senate. Gun control advocates will need 60 votes for the background check proposal to survive.

On Sunday, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine issued a statement saying that she would vote for the Manchin-Toomey compromise, which exempts private gun sales.

The plan would "strengthen the background check system without in any way infringing on Second Amendment rights," Collins said. But Collins took a wait-and-see approach on the entire package, saying "it is impossible to predict at this point the final composition of the overall legislation."

Arizona Sen. John McCain, who has a B+ rating from the National Rifle Association, said he was "very favorably disposed" to the Manchin-Toomey compromise. It was in McCain's home state that a gunman with schizophrenia shot then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the head during a 2011 rampage in Tucson that left six people killed.

Even with their support, the vote on the measure — expected as early as Wednesday — will be close.

"It's an open question as to whether or not we have the votes," Toomey said.

Asked how many votes he thought he had now, Manchin said, "Well, we're close. We need more."

The measure requires background checks for people buying guns at gun shows and online. Background checks currently apply only to transactions handled by the country's 55,000 licensed gun dealers. Private transactions, such as a sale of a gun between family members, would still be exempt.

(Continued on page 2)

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)