Most people are sitting around right now wondering, as President Obama explains it, “how 90% of Americans are in favor of stronger background checks to buy a gun, including gun owners, and it not happen”.
The Joe Manchin/Pat Toomey amendment to Senate Bill 649 was a hastily-written piece of crap. One of the legal blogosphere’s most respected sites, the Volokh Conspiracy, has a quick breakdown of the changes to Senator Schumers’s gun control bill. Without Manchin-Toomey, S.649 will die in the Senate. That is guaranteed.
To get this gun legislation to pass, one thing is certain: compromise. Democrats have been historically unwilling to compromise on gun control since 1998, which is why gun legislation usually goes nowhere in Washington. But in Purple-State Pennsylvania, changes to PA’s gun laws occur fairly frequently. PA has one of the most liberal gun laws, and at the time it reformed its laws into the PA Uniform Firearms Act, Pennsylvania’s state house was primarily controlled by Democrats.
So, what can be used to compromise with “gun nuts”? Simple. The National Right To Carry. Pennsylvania has a License to Carry Firearms. Many other states recognize Pennsylvanians rights to carry a firearm concealed when they travel through a different state. But not all. As this crazy map shows, there is a complicated patchwork of state laws which shows which states are allowed for you to enter with a concealed firearm and which ones you are not.
This matters if you are a truck driver and wanted to carry concealed and be legal in all the states along your route to protect yourself from a carjacking.
QUICK! Can you memorize this crazy map? The states in blue is where you are allowed to enter with a concealed firearm if you got your license from PA. As you can see here, the only way to drive from Pennsylvania to Texas with a concealed firearm is through West Virginia.
The Toomey changes to S.649 were supposed to give an out to these legal gun owners. If you stow your guns and ammo separately in a compartment that’s not easy to reach, and you happen to be in one of those red states that doesn’t honor your permit, that state cannot throw you in jail solely for that reason.
But that’s not how the Toomey amendment was written. The language overrides a similar protection for gun owners in the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 that creates a legal loophole.
A state that doesn’t like concealed carry gun owners traveling through its state can create paperwork requirements and criminal penalties attached to them, and even if you were properly licensed in your home state, pass background checks with ease, have no arrest or criminal record, you can go to jail and your guns confiscated and it will all be perfectly legal thanks to Senator Pat Toomey.
And that’s why Republicans could not stomach the Manchin-Toomey amendment. At least the Senators that had the sense to actually read the legislation and understand what it meant.
Does That Mean This Is Over?
Far from it. Manchin-Toomey shouldn’t really die right here, and S.649 can be saved if the Senate sends it back to committee or holds it while it waits for another amendment to be crafted to save the bill.
Or, simply start a whole new bill and this time get the compromises worded correctly, the first time. That takes time to do it.
Nobody could figure out what was in the Toomey compromise amendment until Toomey walked to the floor of the Senate, introduced it, and then the entire text was published in the Congressional Record where the crappily-worded amendment could be discovered.
Few people in the journalistic print and TV media analysed the actual text, and who can blame them because most of their legal talent is off chasing high-profile court dramas.
So today, a nation acts shocked at this legislative abortion did not get to make it to the House.
There’s no rush and expanded background checks certainly can be passed. But if you want the gun lobby to shut the hell up about their 2nd Amendment rights being stripped away and hold off spending their money, then you have to give them something. National Right to Carry is that carrot.
And if you don’t want to do that, then you won’t get a background check bill.
It’s just that simple.