Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat Joe Manchin announced a gun bill compromise to expand background checks earlier today. The legislation is in direct response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December.
"This amendment won't ease the pain ... but nobody here, not one of us in this great capital of ours in good conscious could sit by and not try to prevent a day like that from happening again," Manchin told the press at today’s announcement.
But aides on Capitol Hill admit that there is not a thing in the bill that would have prevented the killer, Adam Lanza, from killing 26 at the school in Newtown, Connecticut.
“There’s nothing in this legislation that addresses the fact pattern at Sandy Hook,” a senior Senate aide told me on the phone.
The aide explains that the bill expands on the background-check system already in place, but that the system doesn’t work properly.
“They are expanding on a broken system that we know will fail,” says the aide.
Under this law, I’m told, Adam Lanza would still have been able to steal the so-called assault weapon that his mother legally owned—and use it to shoot up the school.
But what about a similar sort of massacre, I ask. Is there anything in the bill that would prevent that?
“No,” said the aide, who has reviewed all the details released of the bill (but not the bill itself—since it has not yet been released). “Nothing in the bill.”
So how does one explain the legislation? “It’s clearly—Congress wanted to do something after what happened at Sandy Hook,” the aide explains. “They wanted to do something.
It “doesn’t address the reason they are having this debate.”
The aide tells me this bill is the “first step toward a national gun registry.”
In a statement to the press, President Obama praised the proposed legislation:
I applaud Senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey for their leadership on forging a bipartisan agreement around commonsense background checks that will make it harder for dangerous people to get their hands on a gun. This is not my bill, and there are aspects of the agreement that I might prefer to be stronger. But the agreement does represent welcome and significant bipartisan progress. It recognizes that there are good people on both sides of this issue, and we don’t have to agree on everything to know that we’ve got to do something to stem the tide of gun violence. Of course, a lot of work remains. Congress needs to finish the job. The Senate must overcome obstruction by defeating a threatened filibuster, and allow a vote on this and other commonsense reforms to protect our kids and our communities. Any bill still has to clear the House. So I’m going to keep asking the American people to stand up and raise their voices, because these measures deserve a vote – and so do the families and communities they’re designed to protect.
In a statement to the press, the National Rifle Association says that it opposes the new legislation. “Expanding background checks at gun shows will not prevent the next shooting, will not solve violent crime and will not keep our kids safe in schools,” says the NRA.
“While the overwhelming rejection of President Obama and Mayor Bloomberg's ‘universal’ background check agenda is a positive development, we have a broken mental health system that is not going to be fixed with more background checks at gun shows. The sad truth is that no background check would have prevented the tragedies in Newtown, Aurora or Tucson. We need a serious and meaningful solution that addresses crime in cities like Chicago, addresses mental health deficiencies, while at the same time protecting the rights of those of us who are not a danger to anyone. President Obama should be as committed to dealing with the gang problem that is tormenting honest people in his hometown as he is to blaming law-abiding gun owners for the acts of psychopathic murderers.”
Both Manchin and Toomey have in past gotten high marks from the National Rifle Association.