“It’s coming back,” said Virginia Senator Joe Manchin Tuesday about his bipartisan bill to expand background checks on gun sales, a bill which failed to pass on its first run through the Senate last month. Manchin’s bill–co-sponsored by Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania–fell short by six votes.
“I have never seen something that resonated with so many people in so many parts of society because it made so much sense,” Manchin told Margaret Carlson at the New York Ideas conference Tuesday. “When something makes that much sense, you have facts to back you up, and you just have to walk out into your community and explain it.”
Manchin maintains that the problem is not with the bill itself, but with trust between gun owners and their elected leaders. ”When you say universal background check,” Manchin said, “the first thing that comes in the mind of a gun owner is that means registration, and registration means confiscation. ‘I haven’t broken the laws, why do you want to know everything?’”
Moving the bill forward will mean making slight tweaks to address such problems, Manchin said. For example, the second version of the bill may underline the penalties for keeping gun purchase records past a certain period of time. The first version of the bill already says any government agency or person who tries to use record keeping to create a registry will be charged with a felony and face 15 years of prison time.
“I can’t understand why the leadership of organizations such as the NRA would think that we’re invading anybody,” Manchin told msnbc’s Lawrence O’Donnell on The Last Word Thursday. “If anything, this [bill] protects the 2nd Amendment. It expands it.”
In this and other areas, Manchin is sensitive to the power of perception. Some people fear his bill “is the first step,” he said, “because they’ve seen the government overreach.” In his interview with Carlson, Manchin was quick to interrupt when she referred to his bill as “gun control.”
“It’s not gun control. It’s just background checks,” Manchin clarified. “It’s not universal background checks. It’s criminal and mental.”
The Manchin-Toomey bill failed by six votes in the Senate last month, with Majority Leader Harry Reid voting ‘no’ on purely procedural grounds to ensure that the legislation could be reintroduced. That means Manchin and his allies need five more votes to reach passage.
Manchin has already identified a couple possible vote-changers. Democrat Mark Pryor of Arkansas, for example, voted “no” when the bill came around the first time, but Manchin says the “hardcore right is never going to vote for Mark because he has a ‘D’ by his name…Mark’s got to evaluate: is there enough [centrist] support out there that can help me offset if I change [my vote]?”
On Tuesday morning, Arizona Republican Jeff Flake said he could reverse his vote if certain exemptions were made for online gun sales.
“I can’t go back in and create a hole in checks on the Internet or in the gun shows just to get your vote,” Manchin said, “but what I can do is redefine.” If someone is worried about the ability to sell guns to family members over the internet, “we can redefine that, and say that any immediate family transactions will be exempt form background checks.”