It’s hard to believe that federal legislation that would expand background checks to more gun buyers, but does not cover all purchases, is facing such an uphill climb in the U.S. Senate.
Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, one of the sponsors of the amendment, said on Monday that getting the 60 votes needed for passage would be very close. When asked if he had the votes, he responded, “Not yet, but we’re working on it.”
Toomey, a Republican, and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, have been in the national spotlight for their bipartisan support of the amendment. Under current federal law, background checks are needed only when guns are purchased from a licensed firearms dealer. Under the proposed legislation, the background checks would also be required at gun shows and during sales over the Internet.
The federal legislation is only a minimum, and many states, including ours, already have tougher laws.
Toomey, a conservative who has an A rating from the National Rifle Association, made it clear that he didn’t consider expanding criminal background checks to be gun control.
“I think it’s just common sense,” he said when introducing the measure.
The vote on the amendment is expected later this week. Though this measure seems to have a better chance of passage than any similar legislation — and is by no means guaranteed to pass the House — it still falls short. Because it would allow private transfers among friends, relatives and acquaintances to proceed without checks, it carries an open invitation to skirt the law.
Universal background checks for all gun purchases is what is really needed.
Though Toomey is to be praised for stepping up, he and other members of the Senate need to listen to the voice of the American people.
A survey conducted by Quinnipiac University in early March found 88 percent of American voters favored background checks for all gun purchases. Of households with guns, the percentage was only slightly lower, 85 percent. Those figures are a mandate for change.
We encourage Toomey, Manchin and others who crafted this bill to twist every arm and make every phone call to persuade their fellow senators to do more to keep those who have committed felonies or have deep psychological problems from obtaining lethal weapons.
They will be casting a vote for common sense. ••