The Senate is considering S.649, the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act, which would expand background checks on gun purchases, crack down on gun trafficking and beef up security in schools. Some GOP senators have said the bill goes too far and infringes on the rights of gun-owners.
Manchin and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) have a bipartisan amendment that would expand background checks to cover all sales at gun shows and over the Internet. It would exempt gun sales and transfers between friends and acquaintances, and explicitly ban the federal government from creating a national firearms registry.
“If you want to sell your neighbor a gun, you can do it with no background checks,” Manchin said. “This bill protects honest, gun loving, law abiding citizens more than any other piece of legislation.”
Manchin said the NRA is telling its members that his bill would make such transactions illegal.
“If some of the friends I’ve known forever at the NRA made a mistake with this information please correct it,” Manchin said. “If you lose your credibility in Washington, you lose everything.”
Manchin and Toomey’s amendment will get a vote shortly after 4 p.m. on Wednesday. Manchin said he knows it will be a close, tough vote, but he feels that he is “here for this purpose.”
Democrats have been pushing for stricter gun laws since December, when a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six school employees at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Manchin said his amendment might not have prevented the tragedy at Newtown, but that it will likely stop adjudicated criminals and mentally ill from buying guns by increasing background checks.
“I don’t say this bill is a panacea, but if I can stop one crazy person … if I can do that, I’ve done my job. I can go home,” Manchin said.