Bipartisan compromise bill reached on background checks

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

"Half a loaf is better than no bread." – Thomas Jefferson, paraphrasing an ancient proverb

Political compromise used to be defined by this ancient proverb. Or as a Democratic senator once told me, progress is made through incremental change — we'll take the half loaf today and come back next year to try again for the other half. When you demand "all or nothing" you usually get nothing.

There is not a whole lot of this "long game" patience and perseverance in today's politics. As I have said before, I blame the instant gratification society that modern technology has created. Everybody wants everything right now!

So there is bound to be disappointment for some over the bipartisan compromise bill on background checks announced today. Senators: Bipartisan deal reached on expanding gun background checks:

A bipartisan group of senators has struck a deal to expand gun
background checks to all commercial sales — whether at gun shows, via
the Internet or in any circumstance involving paid advertising,
according to Senate aides familiar with the talks.

The amendment to the guns legislation already proposed in the
Senate would not cover private transactions between individuals, unless
there was advertising or an online service involved.

The agreement forged by Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Patrick J.
Toomey (R-Pa.) would be more stringent than current law, which requires
checks only when purchases are made through a licensed dealer, but less
strict than the requirements originally sought by President Obama and
congressional Democrats, who were seeking to expand background checks to
nearly every kind of sale.

* * *

“This amendment . . . will not ease the pain of the
families who lost their children on that horrible day,” Manchin said at a
packed news conference. “But nobody – not one of us in this great
Capitol of ours, with a good conscience could sit by and not try to
prevent another day like that from happening again.”

* * *

Under the terms of the Manchin-Toomey deal all background checks
would be conducted by federally licensed gun firearm dealers, who would
need to verify the validity of a purchaser’s gun license and record that
a check was performed. Background checks would need to be completed
within three days, except at gun shows, where they would have to be
completed within two days for the next four years, and then within 24
hours. In order to avoid processing delays, the FBI would be required to
complete background checks requested at gun shows before those
requested elsewhere.

In a key concession to Manchin, the
agreement establishes a bipartisan commission to study incidents of mass
violence and present Congress with potential legislation to address
such incidents. The panel would bring together experts from the fields
of mental health and school safety and representatives of the firearms
and entertainment industries. Any proposals presented by the commission
would be submitted for an up-or-down vote in Congress – a process
similar to that used by the 2011 fiscal supercommittee that failed to
reach an accord on budgetary matters.

“We have a culture of
violence and we have a whole generation that has basically been
desensitized,” Manchin said. “We’ve got to find out how we can change
and reverse that.

A precise list of which transactions would be covered by the
background check deal was not immediately available. One person familiar
with the discussions said the proposed legislation would likely require
background checks on all advertised transactions, including those
posted on Internet sale sites. It was unlikely, the person said, that
sales conducted through an individual, private email exchange would be
governed by the new deal. But, he added, it is impossible to say with
certainty until legislative language is announced.

The Senate has scheduled a vote for Thursday on
a “motion to proceed,” which would officially start the debate over the
most wide-ranging and ambitious gun control legislation in 20 years.
Democrats seem to have assembled the 60 votes needed to overcome a
filibuster.

* * *

“I don’t consider criminal background checks to be gun control, I
think it’s just common sense,” Toomey told reporters. “It’s the people who
fail criminal and mental health background checks that we don’t want
having guns.”

After reviewing the details of their agreement,
Toomey said: “I will tell you categorically that nothing in our
amendment prevents the ownership of guns by any lawful person — and I
wouldn’t support it if it did.”

* * *

Under the Manchin-Toomey deal, records of the newly covered transactions
would be kept by federally licensed arms dealers, according to a person
familiar with the agreement. Currently, licensed arms dealers keep
records of gun sales that take place in gun stores.

The deal also permits licensed gun dealers to perform background
checks on prospective employees and would grant licensed dealers with
legal immunity from lawsuits if the weapon is subsequently used in a
crime, said the aides. Dealers would be permitted to travel across state
lines to sell weapons at gun shows, as long as the dealer abides by
applicable state gun laws.

Members of the military would be permitted to purchase firearms
in their home states and anywhere they are based, said the aides, who
were not authorized to speak publicly about details of the agreement.

* * *

Senators from both parties are likely to introduce numerous amendments to
the guns bill. Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine)
announced Wednesday that they would introduce changes to the underlying
bill’s provisions regarding gun trafficking, to provide legal
protections for people legally purchasing weapons to give as a gift or
as a raffle or contest prize.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) also unveiled a bill Wednesday
that would bolster security for federal judges and prosecutors in
response to the recent shooting deaths of Texas prosecutors. Cornyn
aides said he might eventually introduce the plan as an amendment to the
gun bill.

Other potential amendments include a plan from Coburn
to establish an online portal for background checks and another,
sponsored by dozens of senators, that would provide more federal funding
for mental health programs assisting veterans of the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan. There also probably will be amendments backed by the NRA,
designed to make the bill less onerous for gun owners and buyers.

Any bill would need only a majority of votes to pass. After that, it
goes to the Tea-Publican controled House where another long slog will begin.

The New York Times editorialized today, The Public Wants Background Checks:

Ideally, the Senate would approve a bill to require background checks
for all gun sales, which would significantly improve the chances of
preventing criminals and the dangerously mentally ill from buying guns.

* * *

But the Senate could still make significant progress by approving a
compromise bill that Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a
Democratic gun-rights supporter, is negotiating with Republicans, which
may be the most likely way to expand the current background-check
system. Though the bill is weaker than it should be, it could win the
support of Patrick Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, and possibly
other Republicans, as well as Democrats from conservative states.

Specifically, it would require background checks and records of buyers
at advertised commercial sales of guns, including those at gun shows and
on the Internet, a fast-growing market for weapons often used by those
who would not qualify for a gun from a dealer.

Though it closes the biggest loopholes, the bill would not require
checks for unadvertised gun transfers between individuals, like from one
family member to another. This removes the important principle that
every gun sale should require a background check, but the number of such
sales is small enough that the bill would still be effective
.

* * *

The intense opposition of the gun lobby has already doomed the chances
for a ban on assault weapons, so a background-check bill, combined with a
prohibition on gun trafficking, may be the best Congress can do. It is
critical that this opportunity not be lost to political cowardice.

Or to "all or nothing" demands.

UPDATE: A caveat from Beltway media villager Chris Cillizza, Gun control advocates are celebrating. They might want to hold off:

“Republicans are eager to get into an open amendment process so that
they can turn a responsible gun control bill into a round of NRA-backed
amendments that only need 51 votes to approve,” warned one senior
Democratic operative granted anonymity to speak candidly about strategy
matters. “This could be a nightmare for Democrats that care about these
issues.”

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