Senate Defeats Universal Background Check Compromise

| April 17, 2013

Wednesday, the US Senate defeated the “compromise” background check amendment seen as key to passing President Obama’s gun control bill.

The Manchin-Toomey universal background check amendment was defeated 54-46. falling six votes short of the 60-vote threshold needed to approve the amendment.

The vote is a major disappointment for President Obama, who lashed out at opponents in unusually blunt terms during remarks from the Rose Garden. “All in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington.”

Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence President Dan Gross agreed, stating:

“This is an insult to the 90 people killed by gun violence every day and the 90 percent of Americans who believe that felons, domestic abusers, and the dangerous mentally ill should not be able to buy guns without a background check, no questions asked. “

Gross also promised that the Senators who refused to represent the will of the overwhelming majority of Americans on this crucial issue will be “replaced with others who will.”

The bipartisan agreement crafted by Manchin and Toomey — both rated as strong supporters of gun rights by the NRA — would have required background checks for firearms purchases at gun shows as well as Internet sales.  All sales by federally licensed dealers are already required to undergo background checks.

In an attempt to gain support, Senates Manchin and Toomey opened the amendment up even further, exempting transfers between family, between friends, and even between strangers if the gun had not been “advertised”.

But fierce opposition by the powerful National Rifle Association led a backlash by conservative Republicans and some Democrats from pro-gun states.

A statement by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was disabled in a shooting attack in Tuscon, and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, said that the Senate had “ignored the will of the American people.”

Citing polls that showed around 90% support for expanded background checks, the statement said “senators voting against the measure chose “to obey the leaders of the powerful corporate gun lobby, instead of their constituents.”

The Manchin-Toomey compromise was meant to replace a more far-reaching provision included in the gun-control package the Democrats brought to the floor. That provision, written by Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat, would impose background checks on virtually all gun sales.

With the original language remaining in the bill, the current legislation is pretty much a non-starter for most Republicans and even many Democrats. The NRA had said in an earlier statement that an expanded background check system would be the first step toward a national gun registry and therefore a violation of the constitutional right to bear arms.

White House spokesman Jay Carney, disagreed, calling any claim that the Manchin-Toomey plan would lead to a federal gun registry and confiscation of firearms “absurd and false and wrong.”

“The legislation itself prohibits that,” he said, adding “what should be clear to those senators who are considering this, because it’s clear to the American people, is that this is common sense.”

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