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Joe Manchin: Background Checks Bill Not Dead Yet

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin insisted today that the background checks bill he co-authored with Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey isn’t dead yet:

Sen. Joe Manchin was optimistic on Sunday that the Senate could take another shot at passing a narrow gun control bill that focuses specifically on mental health and criminal background checks.

“The only thing we’ve asked for is for people to read the bill,”  the West Virginia Democrat said on “Fox News Sunday,” stressing the need for a “clean bill.”

“I truly believe that if we have time to sell the bill… read the bill and tell me what you don’t like,” he said.

He said he expects Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who worked with Manchin on a failed gun control bill earlier this month, can be convinced to take up the issue again, even though Toomey said it was time to move on.

In order for the bill to make it through the Senate, Manchin would need to find a way for all four of the Democrats who voted against cloture — Mark Pryor, Heidi Heitkamp, Max Baucus, and Mark Begich — to switch sides and find at least one Republican to go along with them. The most likely candidate in that regard, and the one that gun control advocates seem to be focusing on at the moment is New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte who has taken a hit in the polls as a result of her vote on Manchin/Toomey. Getting Heitkamp, Baucus, and Begich on board may end up being as simple as making changes to the bill to make the burdens on individuals to sell or transfer their guns if they live in rural areas far from a dealer that has a Federal Firearms License. Pryor may be another story, though, and Ayotte is something of a wild card although she may be influenced by John McCain, who voted in favor of the bill.

For the reasons I discussed in the wake of the defeat of the bill, though, I’m not sure how likely it is that any of these Senators is going to switch votes before the 2014 elections. Instead, we may see Democrats try to use the bill as a cudgel against Republicans in 2014.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Getting Heitkamp, Baucus, and Begich on board may end up being as simple as making changes to the bill to make the burdens on individuals to sell or transfer their guns if they live in rural areas far from a dealer that has a Federal Firearms License.

    Doesn’t that create an equal protection issue? People in suburban and urban area have to pay a fee every time they want to transfer their property, while people in rural areas get to do it for free?

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  2. @Stormy Dragon:

    Not really, as long as a rational basis can be asserted for the distinction.

    As for the fees, I think one improvement to statute would be a limit on how much FFL holders could charge for running a background check for private transfers. It could be similar to the limit that most state’s impose on how much private auto mechanics can charge for the mandatory inspection that car owners are required to get each year (or two, depending on the state).

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  3. @Doug Mataconis:

    You’re assuming that rational basis is the test being applied. Giving the description as a “fundamental right” in the MacDonald ruling, it seems far more likely they’re going to use intermediate or strict scrutiny as a basis.

    For strict scrutiny in particular, it’s going to be hard to argue background checks represent a compelling government interest if it goes and says “oh, but we don’t need to do it for these people just because they don’t live near an FFL”.

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  4. @Stormy Dragon:

    I’m not sure that the Court would apply strict scrutiny here, even though the 2nd Amendment is theoretically implicated. Personally, I don’t think any Court is going to find that background checks are a violation of the 2nd Amendment.

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  5. @Doug Mataconis:

    I don’t think they will either; provided the background checks are applied uniformly. It should be easy to show a compelling government interest, as long as the government doesn’t undermine it’s own argument by arbitrarily excluding people.

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  6. Stonetools says:

    However they change the background check legislation, the gun cultists are still going to characterize it as a “gun grabber” conspiracy. Ultimately, such legislation will pass only when we develop lobbying institutions that can complete with the “gun industrial” complex.

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