NRA to oppose Manchin/Toomey bill on background checks

Ed called the bill “weak tea” compared to what Democrats wanted initially, but evidently it’s not weak enough:

“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,” the NRA said. “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 tragedy in Newtown, Aurora or Tucson,” the NRA’s statement continued. “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.”

The bill requires checks for all sales — including most private sales — but with an exception for sales between family, friends, “neighbors,” and “other individuals.” Who qualifies as a “neighbor” or “other individual” for these purposes? Stay tuned. Erick Erickson hears from a source that the bill might also allow doctors to red-flag a patient in the national background-check database without telling them if he suspects that patient of being mentally ill. That could lead to unintended consequences, starting with some mentally ill people refusing to seek treatment for fear of being entered into a federal registry, but there’s no confirmation yet that it’s true. Something to look for once the text of the bill is released.

Toomey says he thinks the bill can pass the House (“I know there are a substantial number of House Republicans that are supportive of this general approach”) but a better question is whether it can pass the Senate once the GOP starts tacking amendments onto it to further weaken the bill. Democrats are worried:

“Republicans are eager to get into an open amendment process so that they can turn a responsible gun control bill into a round of NRA-backed amendments that only need 51 votes to approve,” warned one senior Democratic operative granted anonymity to speak candidly about strategy matters. “This could be a nightmare for Democrats that care about these issues.”…

Given that math, it’s easier to imagine amendments favored by gun rights advocates generating the 51 votes needed to be added to the main legislation than amendments on things like renewing the assault weapons ban or limiting (or outright banning) high capacity magazines.

Of course, Democrats could try to force 60-vote thresholds on pro-gun-rights amendments but that could also threaten to unwind the entire legislation in a procedural quagmire that leaves the final bill failing to muster the 60 votes needed for final passage.

Never mind that. Can the bill in its current form pass, especially now that the NRA’s come out against it? I think it’s got a shot, partly because the polling on background checks will spook Republicans before the midterm and partly because the GOP will want to deny Obama an easy talking point that they obstructed every last effort to keep guns out of the hands of nuts. But the GOP’s not really O’s problem; his problem is convincing red-state Democrats like Pryor and Landrieu who are frantic to show voters back home how pro-gun they are to not oppose the measure. Reid could end up in a spot where he needs 10 or so Republicans to cross the aisle to beat a filibuster on cloture. That seems unlikely, but with Toomey lending some tea-party cred to the measure, maybe not impossible. And if you think Boehner won’t bring a bill to the floor that’s opposed by a majority of Republicans, read this.

Update: Hmmmmm.

Update: “The background check bill, which would close the gun show loophole and expand checks to online sales, is officially co-sponsored by Schumer; Toomey; Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va.; and Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill. But only Toomey and Manchin appeared before the cameras. Toomey, the former Club for Growth president, had told Manchin he would not speak at the news conference if he had to get on stage with Schumer, according to two sources familiar with the talks. Schumer obliged, and Kirk also agreed not to appear in order to provide cover to Schumer.”

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