When he ran for the Senate in 2010, then-West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, D, released a campaign ad in which he loaded, aimed and fired a rifle, showing off his endorsement by the National Rifle Association before shooting a hole through an unpopular bill. Now, Manchin is one of the architects of a major new compromise on federal gun rules — approval of which is the least Congress can do following the country’s spate of mass shootings.
Before the announcement of Manchin’s proposal, drafted with Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., the prospects of 60 senators agreeing even to begin that debate were murky. With the compromise plan on the table, the chance that the country will finally get some up-or-down votes on basic gun measures looks better.
The Manchin-Toomey plan would amend a base bill that does three big things — cracks down on gun trafficking, toughens school security and expands federal background checks of would-be gun purchasers. That last required bargaining. Manchin and Toomey agreed that background checks should be mandatory in all commercial gun sales — including over the Internet and at gun shows. That’s good. At least 40 percent of private gun sales currently take place without such scrutiny. But the deal would not require checks in noncommercial, personal transactions.
It also tasks licensed gun dealers — not the feds — with keeping records of the checks they facilitate, heading off criticism that the new system would create a national gun registry. We see little reason why all purchasers can’t be subject to background checks, but the deal is still a good one.
Then there is the House to consider. Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said Wednesday only that he would “review” what the Senate passes. When the nation’s gun laws are in a deadly state of disarray, that’s not good enough.
The Washington Post (April 11)