While a bipartisan deal on background checks has been struck and a cloture vote will bring it to a vote, Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey still isn’t sure expanded background checks will make it into law.
“We’ve got a few voting hurdles and I don’t know how they’ll turn out. I think we will get started with the bill today, but how the amendments play out, I think it’s just too early to know,” Toomey said. “We focused on the the right part of this equation, ‘which is can we make it more difficult for dangerous criminals and the dangerously mentally ill to get weapons?’”
87% of Americans favor expanded background checks, according to the Morning Joe/Marist poll, but Congress has struggled to garner support for the bills.
Toomey and West Virginia’s Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat, announced the bipartisan agreement on expanding background checks on Wednesday—the same day they met with with families of Newtown massacre victims. That meeting—tearful and painful—helped give him strength to push for expanding background checks.
“They’re not overreaching, they’re reasonable, they’re responsible, they’re not saying take someone’s guns away,” Manchin said from the Russell Rotunda. “I don’t know how I would have reacted if my baby would have been slaughtered like that. I really don’t. To get the strength that they’re giving us to say ‘do the right thing, keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, can’t we at least do that?’ and they’ve been very supportive and I think they’re going to help us make a big difference in this country.”
Toomey urged people to read the bill before making up their minds about it.
“Read the bill,” he said. “If you support the idea of keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and mentally dangerous people and not infringing the rights of law abiding citizens, then call your representatives.”
The bill actually reinforces Second Amendment rights, the pair noted.
“There’s three simple things here: Our legislation strengthens background check system and makes it work more efficiently and quickly for a law abiding citizen to get the approval and it secondly, makes it more difficult for the criminals and mentally dangerous to obtain weapons and thirdly, it better secures Second Amendment rights,” Toomey said. (The bill allows active service military personal, who were previously forbidden from purchasing weapons, to buy them. It also simplifies the process of transporting a gun across state lines.)