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Bipartisan deal on background checks: Biggest gun control win yet?

Two senators announced a bipartisan deal on a gun control bill that would expand background checks. Its passage is hardly assured, but just the compromise is significant.

By Staff writer / April 10, 2013

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia (l.) and Republican Sen. Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania arrive at the Capitol in Washington Wednesday to announce that they have reached a bipartisan deal on expanding background checks to more gun buyers.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP



In the end, Sen. Pat Toomey would not settle for what so often passes as standing on principle in the Senate: doing nothing at all. 

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Instead, the Pennsylvania Republican known best for his deeply conservative fiscal beliefs put his political future on the line for guns, reaching a compromise with Sen. Joe Manchin (D) of West Virginia to expand background checks on firearms transactions at gun shows and for online sales.

The news came the same day that the National Rifle Association gave its blessing to a less-controversial gun measure by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D) of Vermont and Sen. Susan Collins (R) of Maine, which would stiffen penalties for illegal gun purchases and firearms trafficking. Together, the two moves gave a significant boost to President Obama's hopes that the Senate would pass at least some gun legislation in response to the massacre in Newtown, Conn.

The next step is a vote on Thursday to break a Republican filibuster blocking debate on the broader package of gun-control bills. If Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada can rally 60 votes, as seems likely, the Senate would then proceed to debating and amending the legislation. At that time, Senator Manchin said his compromise bill with Senator Toomey would be offered as the first amendment of many to be put to a vote.

Sen. Mark Kirk (R) of Illinois is already a supporter of the legislation, but Toomey said it was too early to tell how many other Republicans would follow his lead. There could be many, given the respect within the Republican caucus for the conservative senator from the Keystone State.

Precisely because of that, the deal was a bold move by Toomey, who is now risking the wrath of the powerful NRA as well as conservatives within his state to do what he says is "common sense."

“What also became apparent to me in the course of this debate, [is] there was the danger that we might end up accomplishing nothing, and not making progress where we could,” Toomey said at a packed Capitol Hill press conference on Wednesday.


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