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God Help Us If We Don't Do It': Senators Defend Background Check Amendment


"I know there are some people that do want to infringe on Second Amendment rights. I won't be part of that."

With the bipartisan Toomey-Manchin-Schumer Senate amendment permitting expanded background checks on gun purchases rapidly encountering opposition, Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) decided to fight back. Both appeared on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday morning to offer a fierce defense of the amendment, as well as reassurances that their background in "gun culture" allows them to understand the concerns of gun owners.

"First of all, let me be very clear, Senator Manchin and I are not willing to support infringing the rights of law-abiding citizens," Toomey said. "I know there are some people that do want to infringe on Second Amendment rights. I won't be part of that."

"Pat and I both come from gun culture, both NRA, both gun people ourselves," Manchin said. "If you're a law-abiding gun owner yourself, you'll like this bill."

Elsewhere, however, the two were far more forceful in their advocacy for the amendment, claiming the window of opportunity to correct oversights in the law was limited, and that their amendment was the most reasonable way to achieve this. On CBS' Face the Nation, they made the following comments:

"We're close," said Toomey said, appearing with Manchin. "We're discussing with colleagues on both sides. We've got bipartisan support, but there is bipartisan opposition."[...]

"It's very hard to say what amendments may succeed and which may fail," Toomey conceded. But, he added, "ours, I think, just strikes the right balance.

"... One quick example," he continued, "under current law, a veteran can very easily be denied Second Amendment rights. A social worker at [the Department of Veterans Affairs] can decide that this person is having trouble handling their personal finances, and bingo, they're denied their Second Amendment rights. We create a mechanism by which they can simply challenge and adjudicate that. It's very reasonable."[...]

"We came here to do something," Manchin said. "We've got a chance to make a difference in people's lives. We have a chance to save lives and not infringe on law-abiding citizens of this country, gun owners like myself and Pat [Toomey]. We have that opportunity, and God help us if we don't do it."

It is unclear whether National Rifle Association opposition will scuttle any bill's chance of getting passed. Given that this amendment marks a rare instance of bipartisan cooperation, however, it may stand a better chance than purely partisan efforts like the proposals put forward by Senate Democrats.

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