What looked like the easiest real gun reform to pass through the Senate now looks doomed, because, as much as most Republicans and red-state Democrats appear to hem and haw over gun legislation, they almost never vote against the NRA.
UPDATE, 4:14 EST: The Senate just rejected the Manchin-Toomey amendment that would have expanded background checks to include gun sales at gun shows and online.
What looked like the easiest real gun reform to pass through the Senate now looks doomed, because, as much as most Republicans and red-state Democrats appear to hem and haw over gun legislation, they almost never vote against the NRA. The Manchin-Toomey amendment to expand background checks to include sales at gun shows and online is plain common sense, provided you think that we should have background checks at all. It has already been combed over and adjusted to allay concerns about issues such as the potential for needing a background check on sales between family members.
While the measure would not establish universal background checks, and there would be back-channel methods for gun buyers to avoid background checks, it would close the two largest loopholes in the background check system. It would prevent more convicted felons and mentally ill people from getting a firearm. It would also add some paperwork and administrative costs to the gun industry. More than 40 senators find that cost too great for the potential benefits. If that makes you angry, you can find out if your Senator opposes the measure, tell them they just lost your vote, and then follow up on that on election day.
Joe Manchin, the most conservative Democrat, and proud holder of an A rating from the NRA, implored his colleagues to read the bill and listen to common sense:
“They’re [the NRA] telling their members that our legislation would — I want to quote this — ‘criminalize the private transfer of firearms by honest citizens, requiring lifelong friends and neighbors, and some family members, to get federal government permission to exercise a fundamental right or face prosecution,’” Manchin said. “Where I come from in West Virginia — I don’t know how to put the words any plainer than this - that is a lie. That is simply a lie. And anybody that can read knows that’s not factual.”
The problem for Manchin, Toomey and the next victims of a gun attack that uses a gun purchased at a gun show or online, is that Republican Senators don't have to worry about attacks from the left, but they do have to worry about getting primaried out of their seats if they vote for anything that the NRA doesn't like (even if it doesn't like it on account of administrative costs and reduced sales to felons and crazy people). Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) bout announced that they will not support the Manchin-Toomey amendment, meaning that for now, the background check loophole will remain a gaping chasm that gun buyers can exploit at will.