Senate vote on gun bill expected to be close
WASHINGTON – A bipartisan Senate proposal to expand background checks for gun buyers gained the backing of one Republican and the potential support of a second Sunday as sponsors said the vote expected this week was too close to call.
The plan would “strengthen the background check system without in any way infringing on Second Amendment rights,” Maine Sen. Susan Collins said in a statement explaining her support for the measure. But she added that “it is impossible to predict at this point” what will be in a final bill.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he was “very favorably disposed” to the proposal that has emerged from Sens. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
“I appreciate their work,” McCain said. “And the American people want to do what we can to prevent these tragedies. And there’s a lot more that needs to be done, particularly in the area of mental health.”
Collins and Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois are the only two Republicans besides Toomey who are expected to vote for the compromise as of now.
It will take 60 votes to pass, meaning that more Republicans will have to come on board because some Democrats from gun-friendly states are expected to oppose the measure.
The measure requires background checks for people buying guns at gun shows and online. Background checks currently apply only to transactions handled by the country’s 55,000 licensed gun dealers. Private transactions, such as a sale of a gun between family members, would still be exempt.
Manchin urged lawmakers to read the 49-page proposal. He said it should dispel any misconceptions about infringing on the constitutional right to bear arms.
“You can imagine for what, the last two or three months, that all you heard is they’re going to take this away from you and that away,” and all of the gun groups are trying to outdo each other, Manchin said Sunday on Fox News Channel. “And the bottom line is when you have a group now – Alan Gottlieb, the chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, said, ‘We read the bill, we like the bill’ and it protects law-abiding gun owners like myself. And they are supporting it now. That is huge.”
The Manchin-Toomey compromise was also endorsed late Sunday by the Independent Firearms Owners Association, a pro-gun group that is smaller and more moderate than the NRA.
The bill is the right way to “stand firm in defense of our constitutional rights and the security of our fellow citizens,” said the group’s president, Richard Feldman, a former NRA official.
The senators’ agreement actually includes language expanding firearms rights by easing some restrictions on transporting guns across state lines, protecting sellers from lawsuits if buyers passed a check but later used a gun in a crime, and letting gun dealers conduct business in states where they don’t live.
“If you are a law-abiding gun owner, you’re going to like this bill,” Manchin said.
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