A bipartisan compromise on expanding gun background checks presented hope for gun control reformers Wednesday. The deal between West Virginian Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania arrived just a day before the Senate is likely to begin to take up gun legislation.
Toomey, unlike several members in his party, said he didn’t believe expanding background checks was akin to gun control.
“I’ve got to tell you candidly, I don’t consider criminal background checks to be gun control,” the GOPer said at a press conference Wednesday explaining the deal. “I think it’s common sense. If you pass a criminal background check, you get to buy a gun, no problem.”
While the compromise doesn’t include universal background checks, which is being pushed for by President Obama and is favored by 90% of Americans, it does expand background checks to cover gun shows and online sales of firearms. Failure to comply would be classified as a felony.
Some gun sales would be exempt, including those between friends and acquaintances outside a commercial venue. Democrats initially wanted background checks for those sales too, but backed off in exchange to close the gun show loophole and Internet sales.
It also axes a provision mandating states to recognize concealed carry permits from other states in addition to eliminating language that would have limited background checks to sellers who sell at least five guns per year.
On Tuesday night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed a cloture motion to move forward on a gun control bill. The plan doesn’t include the Manchin-Toomey compromise, but it’s expected to be added on as an amendment before Thursday’s vote.
NBC News correspondent Luke Russert explained that there’s “no guarantee” the compromise will make “a lot” of GOPers jump on board, but it may give enough cover for 10-12 Republicans to join with the Dems.
House Speaker John Boehner’s response to the compromise was lukewarm at best. He said the House won’t take up any gun legislation until the Senate passes a bill. “I want to wait and see what actually passes” in the Senate, he said.
The National Rifle Association—which has been arguing that more guns, not less is the answer—immediately ripped the compromise.
The gun lobby said in a statement that “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 added that “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.”
Manchin, during the press conference, pointed to December’s mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., declaring “Not one of us is in this great capital of ours in good conscience could sit by and not try to prevent a day like that from happening again.”