It won praise from advocates of stiffer restrictions, including Obama and New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I), reflecting the eagerness on that side of the debate to score concessions after months of intense opposition from the National Rifle Association.
The NRA opposed the plan, which was offered by two lawmakers it had backed for years, Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.). But an otherwise critical statement the NRA released after a Toomey-Manchin news conference cited “a positive development” in the move toward a background check system the group viewed as less intrusive than the one being pushed by Bloomberg and the White House.
The Toomey-Manchin plan would extend the current background check requirement from covering only sales at licensed dealerships to any sale that takes place at a gun show or that was advertised in print or online. However, checks would not be required for many sales between private individuals — a loophole that many gun-control advocates had hoped would be closed.
The proposal also would expand some gun rights. Gun dealers would be able to sell firearms across state lines, for example, and gun owners with state-issued permits to carry concealed weapons would be allowed to take their firearms through states that don’t allow concealed weapons. The senators also called for a national commission to evaluate causes of violence, including the entertainment industry’s role.
The NRA has long recommended the gun rights expansions. And gun-control advocates, including the White House, appeared ready to accept such compromises in the name of a broader deal — effectively conceding that their hopes for universal background checks and bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines had proved unrealistic in the months since the Dec. 14 elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., jump-started the gun debate.
“This is not my bill, and there are aspects of the agreement that I might prefer to be stronger,” Obama said in a statement Wednesday. “But the agreement does represent welcome and significant bipartisan progress. It recognizes that there are good people on both sides of this issue, and we don’t have to agree on everything to know that we’ve got to do something to stem the tide of gun violence.”
Toomey and Manchin’s appearance Wednesday followed weeks of negotiations. The Republican stepped into the mix in the final days when conversations with a GOP colleague, Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.), stalled amid disagreements about whether an expanded check system would collect records about gun owners.