Transcript: Press briefing Q&A with Sen. Pat Toomey & Sen. Joe Manchin on the bipartisan amendment to strengthen criminal background checks for gun purchases

Excerpts from press briefing Q&A with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) on the bipartisan amendment to strengthen background checks for gun purchases on April 10, 2013:

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.):
I can’t speak for the NRA but yes, we’ve been in constant – I’ve been in constant dialogue and I’m sure Pat has too. We’ve taken all sides into consideration…

All we’re trying to do is basically saying that if you go to a gun store today, you’re subjected to a background check. Basically, a lot of states haven’t done the work they should have done. We’re going to make sure they do. There’s incentives and there’s penalties.

And then next of all, if you go to a gun show, you’ll be treated the same as if you went to a gun store – subjected to a background check. And then if you go online, you’ll be subjected the same as you are if you buy a gun online in another state. So those are all the things we’re doing.

But yes, we brought everybody to the table, and yes, we’ve spoken to the NRA and I cannot tell you what their position is but I can tell you that we’ve done the things that Pat just said we did.

We strengthened, basically, the rights of law-abiding gun owners like myself and Pat to be able to exercise our Second Amendment right. But we’ve also, I think, done a tremendous favor to the citizens of our great country on background checks – expanding them to keep people’s guns from people who shouldn’t have them – people who have been criminally adjudicated and mentally adjudicated.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.):
What matters to me is doing the right thing, and I think this is the right thing. And I think most Pennsylvanians will agree that making it more difficult for criminals and mentally ill people to obtain guns is the right thing to do. Securing the rights of law-abiding citizens is also the right thing to do. So that’s what’s most important to me.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.):
You know, I’ve had conversations with several of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, but I can’t speak for them yet. I think it’s too soon to know how people are going to vote on this.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.):
We have been promised and confirmed that our amendment will be the first amendment that goes on the bill…I intend to support it with this. I cannot support it without the amendment that Pat and I have worked on.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.):
I don’t predict how I’m going to vote on a measure that isn’t defined yet, and since this might very well – and I hope would be – an open amendment process, I don’t know which amendments will succeed or fail so I’ll make my final judgement when I see the final product.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.):
It’s a range. I mean, there are some people that are very interested in learning more and they’re interested and they are openly considering whether they might embrace this approach. Others are not very interested. It kind of runs the gamut.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.):
Let me make it very clear: What we have done – if you go to a gun show, you have to do all background checks and have to be recorded with an FFF – a Federal Firearms Licensed Dealer – the same as you do if you go to a gun store. That would be a licensed dealer. If you go online, the same. Other than that – no. Personal transfers are not touched whatsoever. All personal transfers are not touched whatsoever. We’ve done these two and we’ve done them and we’ve done them right.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.):
The way I would characterize it is secure gun rights…I’ll give you a couple of examples. It occasionally happens that a law-abiding citizen who has every legal right to own a weapon is transporting it from one state to another. Maybe he’s going hunting. Maybe he’s giving it to his son or daughter. He’s transporting it in the proper fashion but he happens to transit a state that might require a license, for instance. He doesn’t have a license in that state. And sometimes that person, maybe he has to stop for gas or stay overnight in a hotel, that person shouldn’t be subject to criminal prosecution when he’s doing something that’s really completely lawful.

Second example I’ll give you – and there are others – current law forbids active duty military personnel from buying a gun in their own state. I think that’s a terrible policy, frankly. They’re only permitted to buy a gun in the state in which they’re stationed. What we would do is we would change that. We would allow active duty military folks to buy a gun in their home state. So that’s just two examples. There are others.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.):
Yes. I support it [national reciprocity for conceal carry]. I hope we get there.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.):
It gives us better control, if you will. It really gives us much better control and basically, it treats people fair. You can’t look at Pat and I and…legal gun owners and enjoy going hunting and shooting like we do, we can’t assume people because we enjoy that Second Amendment right that we have to do something wrong but we’re going to make sure we do it in a safe manner and we’re treated fairly. With that, this goal is to make sure that people who shouldn’t have are not going to have access to the guns through a gun show or at a gun store.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.):
If they have a permit to carry and they go through a much extensive background check to get a permit to carry – conceal carry – then they would be treated as law-abiding citizens and not as criminals because they happen to have it be in a state that doesn’t accept that.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.):
…I’m looking forward to the debate. I’m hopeful but I think this is a fluid situation and it’s hard to predict.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.):
Let me just say this: I have spoken this morning with all of my friends in the gun state of West Virginia – the gun culture of West Virginia – the people who appreciate and enjoy the rights that they have and I explained by detail what the bill does. And I think I have support from who would be the most critical gun advocates as anybody in the country. They understand this is common sense. This is gun sense.

We’re not infringing on the rights of individual citizens but basically if you’re going to go to a gun show, you should be subjected to the same as if you went to the gun store. If you’re going to go online, you should be the same as if you bought the gun across state lines the same as if you were in state…

All we’re saying is this makes sense. And also having a commission on mass violence. Talk to your children who are watching these video games today. Talk to the people at Newtown…If we had just bullet proof glass, could we have prevented it? These are things we never took into consideration before. There’s so many things for school safety and video violence and mental illness – why aren’t we treating them all?

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.):
I have had several conversations with some of our house colleagues and I know there are a substantial number of House Republicans that are supportive of this general approach. Of course, they want to look at the specifics of the legislation but there are definitely Republicans in the House that supports this.

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