Common sense

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. ••

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