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What’s inside the Manchin-Toomey background check proposal?


Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) have released their much buzzed-about proposal to extend background checks to all commercial gun sales, including sales conducted at gun shows or on the Internet.  The proposal would exempt some gun sales from background checks, such as those that occur between relatives.

From the press release issued by the two Senators (via Jamie Dupree):

The Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act would require states and the federal government to send all necessary records on criminals and the violently mentally ill to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The bill extends the existing background check system to gun shows and online sales.

The bill explicitly bans the federal government from creating a national firearms registry, and imposes serious criminal penalties (a felony with up to 15 years in prison) on any person who misuses or illegally retains firearms records.


Summary of Title I: This section improves background checks for firearms by strengthening the instant check system.

– Encourage states to provide all their available records to NICS by restricting federal funds to states who do not comply.

– Allow dealers to voluntarily use the NICS database to run background checks on their prospective employees.

– Clarifies that submissions of mental health records into the NICS system are not prohibited by federal privacy laws (HIPAA).

– Provides a legal process for a veteran to contest his/her placement in NICS when there is no basis for barring the right to own a firearm.


Summary of Title II: This section of the bill requires background checks for sales at gun shows and online while securing certain aspects of 2nd Amendment rights for law abiding citizens.

– Closes the gun show and other loopholes while exempting temporary transfers and transfers between family members.

– Fixes interstate travel laws for sportsmen who transport their firearms across state lines in a responsible manner. The term “transport” includes staying in temporary lodging overnight, stopping for food, buying fuel, vehicle maintenance, and medical treatment.

– Protects sellers from lawsuits if the weapon cleared through the expanded background checks and is subsequently used in a crime. This is the same treatment gun dealers receive now.

– Allows dealers to complete transactions at gun shows that take place in a state for which they are not a resident.

– Requires that if a background check at a gun show does not result in a definitive response from NICS within 48 hours, the sale may proceed. After four years, when the NICS improvements are completed, the background check would clear in 24 hours. Current law is three business days.

– Requires the FBI to give priority to finalizing background checks at gun shows over checks at store front dealerships.

– Authorizes use of a state concealed carry permit instead of a background check when purchasing a firearm from a dealer.

– Permits interstate handgun sales from dealers.

– Allows active military to buy firearms in their home states.

– Family transfers and some private sales (friends, neighbors, other individuals) are exempt from background checks


Summary of Title III: : This section of the bill creates a commission to study the causes of mass violence in the United States, looking at all aspects of the problem, including guns, school safety, mental health, and violent media or video games.

The Commission would consist of six experts appointed by the Senate Majority Leader and six experts appointed by the Speaker of the House. They would be required to submit an interim report in three months and a completed report in six months.


The bill will not take away anyone’s guns.

The bill will not ban any type of firearm.

The bill will not ban or restrict the use of any kind of bullet or any size clip or magazine.

The bill will not create a national registry; in fact, it specifically makes it illegal to establish any such registry.

The bill will not, in any way at all, infringe upon the Constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.

Sen. Toomey rejected the characterization of the proposal as gun control:

Toomey: I don't consider criminal background checks gun control, I call it common sense

— Luke Russert (@LukeRussert) April 10, 2013

Sen. Manchin said action was needed in the wake of the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., late last year:

Manchin: "Not one of us … with a good conscience could sit by and not try to prevent [another Newtown]."

— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) April 10, 2013

Joe Manchin: "Newtown has changed us all" #guncontrol #gunlaws #congress

— Samantha-Jo Roth (@SamanthaJoRoth) April 10, 2013

Many conservatives expressed concerns about the legislation. In particular, they were disappointed in Toomey, a conservative Republican who was elected on a Tea Party platform:

It's like Pat Toomey, now in office, is forgetting how he got there to begin with.

— Neil Stevens (@presjpolk) April 10, 2013

Toomey sounds rather defensive about this. Not sure what he thinks is going to get out of this.

— DrewMTips (@DrewMTips) April 10, 2013

That's all I needed to know. RT @DrewMTips: Oh good, Schumer is on board with Manchin-Toomey. That'll go well.

— Sean Agnew (@seanagnew) April 10, 2013

I'd call that a "good thing." MT @DrewMTips: Toomey … was worried nothing would happen on gun control. Oh noes! That would be horrible.

— Phineas Fahrquar (@irishspy) April 10, 2013

An absurd amount of spin coming out of this Toomey/Manchin presser right now. Incredible.

— Stephen Gutowski (@StephenGutowski) April 10, 2013

Background checks would not have stopped the Newtown shooting:

BTW Toomey and Manchin, Adam Lanza killed his mother and stole her guns. No background check would have stopped that.

— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) April 10, 2013

Remember, the whole Toomey/Manchin bill was brought on by Sandy Hook, which nothing they proposed in the presser would have stopped.

— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) April 10, 2013

The Toomey-Manchin proposal – any proposal – wouldn't have prevented Newtown. Daily reminder that legislation is about expanding bureaucracy

— Noctis Lucis Caelum (@mtranquilnight) April 10, 2013

Evey other word out of Manchin's mouth during his statement was "Newtown". No reporter asked how this proposal would have stopped Newtown.

— DrewMTips (@DrewMTips) April 10, 2013

The National Rifle Association asserts that the proposed legislation also would not have prevented mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Tucson, Arizona:

NRA on Toomey/Manchin: "The sad truth is that no background check would have prevented the tragedies in Newtown, Aurora or Tucson."

— Brian Lehrer Show (@BrianLehrer) April 10, 2013

Tucson shooter Jared Lee Loughner and Aurora shooter James Holmes both passed background checks, despite having been previously diagnosed with mental health problems.  It is unclear to us whether anything in Section One of the Manchin-Toomey proposal would have made a difference.

Some insist the bill doesn’t go far enough:

If the Manchin/Toomey gun bill doesn't have a provision for private sales or gifts the bill doesn't have teeth.

— Lisa Todd Sutton (@LisaToddSutton) April 10, 2013

The Toomey-Manchin compromise has loopholes that let people trade guns at will and claim they only traded 5.

— SunbeamsAreFree (@JackDeTate) April 10, 2013

At least one prominent conservative Senator says it will be ineffective:

Coburn says Manchin-Toomey background checks plan is not effective because buyer can wait to contact non-dealer seller after gun show.

— Alex Bolton (@alexanderbolton) April 10, 2013

It remains to be seen whether the proposal will gain traction among other Republicans:

Q: You worried your BG checks bill will mess up your A-rating with NRA? Toomey: "What matters to me is doing the right thing."

— jennifer bendery (@jbendery) April 10, 2013

Fence-sitting Senators will want to make note of this:

I'm reliably told the calls in to Toomey's office were roughly 200:1 against this deal.

— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) April 10, 2013

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