Transcript: Press briefing remarks by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) on the proposed gun background check amendment

Transcript of press briefing remarks by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) on the proposed amendment to strengthen background checks on gun purchases on April 10, 2013:

…I, too, want to commend Sen. Manchin for the great work that he’s put in for a long time on this. Our staffs have worked very hard as well…

I also want to mention the terrific work that Sen. Kirk has done on this. He’s really been an invaluable asset and a very, very important voice in this discussion, and I appreciate that.

And let me say, you know, Pennsylvania has a long bipartisan tradition of supporting gun rights, and I’ve been proud to be a part of that tradition and I continue to be.

I’m a gun owner and the rights that are enshrined in the Second Amendment are very, very important to me personally as I know they are to so many people across Pennsylvania. My record shows this.

But I’ve got to tell you candidly I don’t consider criminal background checks to be gun control. I think it’s just common sense.

If you pass a criminal background check, you get to buy a gun – no problem. It’s the people who fail a criminal or mental health background check that we don’t want having guns.

Now, in my time in public life, I’ve not taken a very high-profile role on this issue. I spend most of my time and energy focusing on policies that will help generate economic growth and job creation and put us on a sustainable fiscal path. That has been my focus; it will continue to be my focus.

So let me explain to you why I’m standing here today with Sen. Manchin. I’m here because over the last few months several things became apparent.

First is that gun legislation appeared destined to reach the Senate floor. It’s not something that I sought but it’s something that I think is inevitable.

Second thing is it became apparent that there are a number of gun control proposals that I think actually would infringe Second Amendment rights, and 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.

But what also became apparent to me in the course of this debate there was the danger that we might end up accomplishing nothing and not making progress where we could.

So that’s when I started talking with Sen. Manchin and Sen. Kirk and others to see if we might be able to find a place where there’s some common ground, and I think we’ve found it.

And the common ground rests on a simple proposition and that is that criminals and the dangerously mentally ill shouldn’t have guns. I don’t know anyone who disagrees with that premise from either political party or whatever folks’ views might be on broader gun rights issues.

So if we start with the notion that dangerous criminals and dangerously mentally ill people shouldn’t have guns, the question is how can we accomplish that?

Now, background checks are not a cure-all by any means but they can be helpful. In the 10-year period from 1999 to 2009, 1.8 million gun sales were blocked by the current background check system because people were not qualified to own a gun.

Now, I supported background checks in the past; I support them now. They already exist, of course, for the purchase of guns from licensed dealers. In Pennsylvania, in fact, they already exist for all handgun purchases.

If it passes, what our measure will do is it’ll expand the background checks to purchases of firearms at gun shows and over the Internet. It would not require record-keeping by any private citizens.

The fact is the national law that we have had and Pennsylvania’s experience have done nothing to restrict the lawful ownership of guns by law-abiding citizens, and neither will our amendment.

The worries that we hear sometimes about background checks leading to an erosion of our Second Amendment rights – that simply hasn’t happened, and I’m going to make sure that it doesn’t.

I also want to point out, as Sen. Manchin did, that this amendment is a genuine compromise.

In addition to expanding background checks, it includes a number of measures that help to secure Second Amendment rights of gun owners – some items that gun owners have long sought.

The bottom line for me is this: If expanding background checks to include gun shows and Internet sales can reduce the likelihood of criminals and mentally ill people from getting guns and we can do it in a fashion that does not infringe on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens, then we should do it and in this amendment I think we do.

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