U.S. Senator Joe Manchin blamed the vote yesterday to reject expanded background checks of gun purchasers on the National Rifle Association’s “twist” of facts.
Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, said the NRA’s campaign against his compromise plan didn’t represent law-abiding gun owners’ willingness to accept reasonable controls to help keep guns from mentally ill people and criminals. Yesterday, Manchin’s proposal fell six votes short of the 60 needed for adoption by the 100-member Senate.
“Law-abiding gun owners, when you give them the facts, they will make the right decision,” Manchin said today at a Wall Street Journal breakfast in Washington. NRA leaders would know that “if they truly polled their members,” he said.
Manchin said the measure would have been adopted with 70 votes without “the twist that was put on everything” by the NRA and its warning that senators would be rated on how they voted.
“I just never knew how hard it was to get the facts out,” he said. “Now we’ve got to sell the bill more” by urging his colleagues to read the legislation and act on “what the facts prove.”
NRA officials didn’t immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment.
Federal law requires a background check to buy a gun from a licensed dealer. Manchin’s amendment, a compromise with Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, would require background checks for gun sales over the Internet and between private parties at gun shows.
President Barack Obama said yesterday that the gun lobby “willfully lied” about the background-check measure, telling lawmakers it would start a gun registry although the plan specifically banned a roster of gun owners.
After yesterday’s vote, the NRA’s chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, said in a statement that Manchin’s amendment “would have criminalized certain private transfers of firearms between honest citizens,” including “lifelong friends, neighbors and some family members.” The NRA, based in Fairfax, Virginia, is the nation’s biggest gun lobby and claims 4 million members.
Manchin called the characterization about private transfers “ludicrous.” Criminal penalties would apply only if a buyer failed to get a background check before purchasing a gun on the Internet from a relative, he said.
“If you have a loving relationship with a family member” and “you have to sell your gun on the Internet” to that person, “you better check that relationship,” Manchin said.
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