May 8, 2013
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin seems determined to gain full Senate approval of updates to federal background check rules for prospective gun buyers. Though the amendment he and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., crafted was rejected earlier this spring, Manchin, D-W.Va., has said he is preparing to try again.
Good, because, as Manchin seems to recognize, the matter is more than another layer of federal regulations. It also is more than Manchin and Toomey meant it to be – a refinement of rules intended to make it less likely criminals and the mentally unstable can buy firearms.
More than that, the proposal is a test of whether common sense will trump over-protectiveness on both sides of the gun control debate. Thus far, the duel between those who would just as soon scrap the Second Amendment and foes who fear any limits on gun ownership has dominated the debate.
The original Manchin-Toomey proposal indeed needed fine-tuning, as Manchin has conceded. It was intended in part to require background checks on more transactions that occur through the Internet and at gun shows. But some senators worried about transfers of firearms among family members and friends and about technicalities involving Internet sales.
Manchin said last week some changes are being made in the proposal. He hopes they will convince enough senators to change their earlier stances and vote in favor of the legislation.
Until the language is finalized, no one can say whether it is acceptable or not. Still, Manchin seems to be on the right track in addressing reasonable critics of the measure and tweaking it to ease their concerns.
Background checks have been around for years, and have not been a major problem for gun enthusiasts. Manchin’s proposal would merely close a few loopholes in existing law, without adding new, anti-Second Amendment provisions.
In that light, the National Rifle Association and other defenders of Constitutional liberties should have no problem with Manchin’s plan. He is right to be refining it, responding to critics, and trying again to get the provision into law.