Gun Stories of the Week: Manchin, Toomey Might Revive Failed 2013 Background-Checks Bill

TOP STORY
Manchin, Toomey considered reviving failed 2013 background-checks bill

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and GOP Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania—coauthors of the failed 2013 Manchin-Toomey compromise background bill—said they considered reintroducing the proposal in the days after the June 17 shooting that killed nine at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.

Then they realized if the flawed bill couldn't pass muster when Democrats controlled the Senate and House, it certainly wouldn't now that the GOP carries both bodies. The Manchin-Toomey bill failed to attain the 60-vote supermajority needed to advance in the Senate by a margin of 54-46 in 2013 when it had a Democratic majority.

Manchin told Lauren Fox of the National Journal that he still stands by the background-check bill, he is still not sure that he or Toomey have the ability to overcome a 60-vote threshold and make it law.

"I've talked to my friend Pat Toomey," Manchin told National Journal on June 24. "We are still working on the votes. Right now, we are in a different position, being in the minority. We have fewer Democrats."

Manchin says that the senators have to wait and see if "people want to do the most reasonable thing." When asked if he was undertaking a serious effort, Manchin said, "It is always serious. If people would just read the bill we have, it's not gun control; it is just gun sense.

In the two years since the Senate failed to pass the Manchin-Toomey bills, the influence off sympathetic Democratic leaders ha waned. Now, as Fox notes, the Senate "is run by Mitch McConnell, who once hoisted a firearm into the air at a conservative convention in order to prove his allegiance to the National Rifle Association."

"Sympathetic" Democrats -- such as North Carolina's former Sen. Kay Hagan, Louisiana's Mary Landrieu, and Colorado's Mark Udall -- have been replaced with Republicans.

"The likelihood of something getting through the House and the Senate is extremely low," said Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who was lobbied personally by former congresswoman and shooting survivor Gabby Giffords during the 2013 gun debate. "I think McConnell or Boehner are unlikely to entertain something that is just going to play out without getting anything done."

There was sun rises in the west and sets in the east, then we’ll pass a gun control bill.”

There was new bill introduced in Congress last week: U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) introduced the "Keeping Guns from Criminals Act" on June 22 to "close a loophole in federal law that allows straw purchasers and gun traffickers to funnel firearms to felons, juveniles, and other restricted purchasers with little to no risk of being prosecuted."

“This is not a complicated issue: No one wants guns in the hands of dangerous criminals,” Rep. Beyer said in a press release. “Time and again Congress fails to make meaningful progress to prevent gun violence in the face of overwhelming national demand to do so. The 'Keeping Guns from Criminals Act' will ensure that only responsible gun owners are able to purchase a firearm. There is no reason for us to wait for another tragedy to make this common sense idea a reality to protect our families.”

The "Keeping Guns from Criminals Act" would streamline law enforcement efforts to ensure safe firearms transfers between lawful owners. The Act would make it easier to prosecute private sellers who make irresponsible sales by requiring them to prove that the purchase was approved by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System or ​that the purchaser ​held a concealed weapons permit in the state of transfer.

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BERN NOTICE
Sanders mocks Clinton, O'Malley for emotional pandering in wake of Charleston shooting

While Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Martin O'Malley immediately tried to capitalize on the emotional response to the Charleston shooting by blaming guns and gun laws for the deaths of nine churchgoers -- instead of, say, blaming the people who kill people -- long-shot Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders dismissed their predictable pandering as nothing more than the same old hacks preaching to the same old choir.

Sanders said he's open to a conversation about what to do next on gun-control measures and would go along with stricter background checks, for example. But he noted in a June 25 interview with NPR's David Greene that more gun control laws won't solve the problem of gun violence in America.

"So obviously, we need strong sensible gun control, and I will support it," he said on NPR's Morning Edition. "But some people think it's going to solve all of our problems, and it's not. You know what, we have a crisis in the capability of addressing mental health illness in this country. When people are hurting and are prepared to do something terrible, we need to do something immediately. We don't have that and we should have that."

A sander -- a left-leaning senator from rural, pro-gun Vermont -- has had a mixed voting record on guns. He voted for the failed 2013 Manchin-Toomey background check bill and Sen. Dianne Feinstein's bizarre "assault-weapons" ban, but Sanders has voted to allow guns on Amtrak and against the Brady bill.

"I think guns and gun control is an issue that needs to be discussed," he said on NPR's Morning Edition. "Let me add to that, I think that urban America has got to respect what rural America is about, where 99 percent of the people in my state who hunt are law abiding people."

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STATE ROUNDUP
Gov. Scott Walker signs two Wisconsin bills that relax restrictions on gun owners

Gov. Scott Walker expanded gun rights in Wisconsin on June 24 by signing into law two bills that, respectively, get rid of the state’s 48-hour waiting period and let retired or off-duty law enforcement officials carry concealed firearms into public schools.

According to the Associated Press, Walker’s move was long in the making -- Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke announced on June 11 that the Wisconsin governor would sign the 48-hour waiting period bill into law.

But it also came a week after a racist terrorist killed nine people in a church in Charleston, S.C., drawing criticism from knee-jerkers for being insensitive.

“This bill signing has been long planned with law enforcement,” Walker Press Secretary Laurel Patrick wrote in an email to the AP.

Walker, who is expected to jump into the GOP's 2016 presidential race in the next few weeks, has often touted his efforts to roll back gun laws in the state. He also has an A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association.

During an April 10 speech at the NRA’s annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn., Walker bashed President Barack Obama on gun control.

“Sometimes I think that the current occupant in the White House forgets that when the president is sworn in he takes an oath to ‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,’” Walker said. “Well Mr. President, the Second Amendment is part of the constitution. You don’t get to pick and choose which part of the constitution you support. Preserving, protecting and defending it is not optional. It’s mandatory.”

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IN THE COURTS
Pennsylvania court strikes law allowing challenges to local gun ordinances

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled on June 24 that Act 192 of 2014 -- which allowed firearm owners and organizations to sue municipalities over gun-related regulations -- was enacted unconstitutionally because it was altered to change its original purpose and did not relate to a single subject.

“The original purpose of (the law) pertained solely to the penalties for the theft of secondary metal, while the final purpose was altered so as to include, among other things, creation of a civil action through which to challenge local firearms legislation,” Judge Robert Simpson wrote for the majority. “Clearly, these are vastly different activities.”

According to thelegalintelligencer.com, Gov. Tom Corbett signed the final bill into law in November 2014, and it went into effect Jan. 5 of this year. Shortly after the bill signing, five members of the General Assembly, including Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, as well as the cities of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Lancaster, filed a petition to enjoin the enforcement of Act 192.

Respondents included state House of Representatives Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, Sen. Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, and Rep. Samuel H. Smith, R-Jefferson, according to thelegalintelligencer.com.

Attorney Martin Black, who represented the petitioners, said there was a flood of litigation against municipalities when the law went into effect in January. Some of those cases have proceeded throughout the pendency of the Commonwealth Court litigation, he said.

“The real mystery is why the legislature thought they could pass the law in this fashion,” Black told thelegalintelligencer.com.

Drew Crompton, who represented Sen. Scarnati, said an appeal is likely in the case. “There’s competing case law in this case, on this issue,” he told thelegalintelligencer.com. “We’re always much more concerned with the precedent and how it affects the legislative branch.”

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