Senators talk background checks for gun sales

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia remains in the thick of the discussions for a compromise on background checks for gun sales, according to Associated Press.

Manchin, a Democrat, is working with Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., on expanding federal background checks for gun buyers by requiring checks on gun show sales and firearms transactions online, but sales between close relatives and temporary transfers between hunters would be excluded, AP said.

Few details of the discussions have been released.

“Sen. Manchin continues to talk to all of his colleagues,” Jonathan Kott, Manchin’s communications director, told the newspaper on Monday.

Manchin and Toomey have both been received A ratings from the National Rifle Association, which has opposed background checks.

Manchin for several months was working on a background check compromise with Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla. Schumer proposed a bill that required records of private gun sales, which was opposed by Coburn, and the discussions stalled.

Congress returned on Monday from a two-week recess.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., on Monday called for an “honest debate” on gun safety and an agreement on background checks.

“The background checks in particular are something we need to push ourselves to reach agreement on,” Rockefeller said. “We know beyond any doubt that right now in America there are too many ways for criminals and the mentally ill to buy guns, especially at gun shows, and we know how to fix it. This does not mean gun owners would be placed on a registry. What it does mean is that those who want to do people harm shouldn’t be allowed to avoid background checks by going to gun shows. Period. And we all have a shared responsibility to just put an end to that.”

Rockefeller cited the four-month anniversary of the Sandy hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn., where 20 kids were killed.

“Parents, educators, police officers, hunters and sportsmen, and elected leaders have worked hard to find common ground and come up with new solutions to solve the very real problem of gun violence in this country. And they’ve stuck with it even in the face of some unfair and ugly criticisms by those who would instead turn this moment into a false rallying cry over gun rights that are not threatened in any way, shape or form,” Rockefeller said. “From the NRA to the halls of Congress and state capitols, we’ve seen some turn a blind eye to the tragedy of Newtown or, worse yet, use it as an excuse to create panic and undo longstanding public safety laws.”

Rockefeller supported the 1994 ban on new purchases of a limited number of assault weapons and high capacity magazines. No one gave up the guns they owned and thousands of rifles were exempt, he said.

“That law made sense then and in my view should be re-enacted now, but we also have the opportunity today to tackle other important aspects of gun violence expanding mental health support services, studying violent media content, addressing gun trafficking, and closing the big loopholes that exist today in the background check process,” he said.