The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 16, 2013

Our View: Gun bill a good start to action on violence

The Free Press

— A bipartisan bill to reduce the risk of gun violence offers some common sense safeguards for improving background checks and leaves unblemished Second Amendment freedoms enjoyed by law-abiding citizens.

The bill was crafted by Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, and Republican Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania. It expands background checks for those who would sell guns at gun shows and online yet exempts sales between relatives and other private sales conducted outside of gun shows.

The bill will be the first amendment to a larger bill to be debated in the Senate this week. The Manchin-Toomey proposal also would make gun trafficking a federal crime, provide more funding for school security programs and ban federal authorities from setting up a gun ownership registry.

The proposal also aims to strengthen the current system of background checks by providing states incentives to load all relevant information into the background check database. It also calls for a national commission to study in-depth instances of mass violence in the U.S.

While the National Rifle Association still opposes this bipartisan plan, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Bear Arms has endorsed the proposal. The group describes itself as the second largest gun rights group in the country with 650,000 members.

There also appears to be growing popular support for expanded background checks. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows 55 percent of respondents believe new gun laws can be approved without harming Second Amendment rights of gun owners.

Polls can change once people are asked about details of gun legislation, but most would also probably feel comfortable with proposals that are bipartisan and come from members of Congress who are ranked highly by the NRA, as are Toomey and Manchin.

The NRA argues correctly that such restrictions on background checks “will not reduce violent crime or keep our kids safe in their schools.”

The NRA frames the wording just so to make it a reasonably true statement. What they NRA doesn’t ever seem to address is the possibility of keeping guns out of the hands of one more person who shouldn’t have one by law. That proposition is more difficult to argue against.

Thousands of laws we make don’t stop bad things from happening. But many laws we make reduce the risk of bad things happening. That should be a start on addressing the horrific instances of gun violence we have seen.

The Toomey-Manchin bill offers a way to reduce that risk of violence and protect the Second Amendment rights of all.