Gun Deal Announced In The Senate: What’s In The Bill, And Will It Make You Safer?

Owen Poindexter
After months of negotiations and rhetoric, we have a gun deal in the senate. The bill will come to the senate floor, and given that it has the support of at least a couple of Republicans, chances for passage are good. Here are the essentials of the gun bill:

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Senators Joe Manchin (left) and Pat Toomey (right) worked together to craft a bipartisan gun bill to go before the Senate. PHOTO: Reuters
After months of negotiations and blindingly stupid rhetoric, we have a gun deal in the senate. The bill has not passed the senate, but it will come to the senate floor, and given that it has the support of at least a couple of Republicans, chances for passage are  good (the House could be another matter). Here are the essentials of the gun bill:
1. It was constructed by Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Penn.). Manchin is probably the most conservative, gun-friendly Senate Democrat and Toomey is not particularly left for a Republican, but he is from a blue state, and, it seems, he had a sincere desire to negotiate and contribute: “There was the danger that we might not accomplish anything,” Toomey explained. For much of Obama's presidency, that hasn't been so much a danger as a goal for Congressional Republicans, so thank you Toomey for doing that.
2. The bill expands background checks, but doesn't make them universal. Background checks would be required on all online sales and at gun shows, which covers a lot of the sales that currently don't require checks. Gun control advocates (and 90% of Americans, according to one poll) want universal background checks, but that would not make it through this Senate, where the NRA and the rest of the gun lobby have their tendrils deeply entrenched. Certain gun sales, such as sales between family members, are exempted from background checks.
3. There is nothing in this bill about banning assault weapons or magazine capacity. These measures, which would likely lower the body count of the next horrific mass shooting, are political nonstarters in the House or the Senate. American politics, ladies and gentlemen.
4. This bill establishes a "commission on mass violence," to study what causes mass shootings and how to prevent them. I'll gander a guess on their findings: arming teachers won't help.

5. The gun bill will make it to the senate floor, but might not make it off. Toomey has stated that Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) will vote to bring the bill to the floor, and Susan Collins (R-Maine) is a good bet to vote yes as well. It is likely that Harry Reid can scrounge up another few Republican votes to overcome a (completely absurd) filibuster by Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and eleven other GOP senators. Once the bill is on the senate floor, however, some of those votes are likely to defect when voting for passage. Chances of passage will decrease in the Republican-controlled House. Still, Toomey's support gives Republicans cover, and this thing still has a shot.

So, is this a good bill? It's far from ideal. In fact it's less than halfway to ideal, but it's much better than nothing. It will make America a little bit safer, and give gun control agents a little more authority. It might make it easier for light blue states to draft helpful improvements on a state level, but it will likely also inspire deep red states to loosen their gun laws where they can (which they have already been doing). It's not a great bill, but it's not bad either. It's a start. Unfortunately, it's a start that likely won't be continued until we get a more sensible Congress, and that could take a while.