Yesterday, the Daily Caller first reported on a document being circulated among Republicans in Congress by officials in the Trump administration pushing for expanded background checks, but the White House has disavowed claims that the document originated with them.
“Consistent with the Manchin-Toomey draft legislation,” read the one-pager, “a background check requirement would be extended to all advertised commercial sales, including sales at gun shows.”
Most firearm sales occur through federal firearm licensees (FFL), which are required to conduct a background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
Some other sales occur through transactions with individuals who are not federally licensed, such as when someone might decide to sell an old rifle. However, it is still illegal to “repetitively buy and sell firearms with the principal motive of making a profit” without an FFL.
In light of the recent mass murders in Texas, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has been vocal about extending background checks to cover so-called “stranger-to-stranger” gun sales. The Manchin-Toomey legislation would effectively do that at the federal level.
U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr and White House legislative director Eric Ueland are said to be two of the officials soliciting the proposal to members of Congress. Both men reportedly had meetings on the Hill about the potential legislation with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Missouri), and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-North Carolina).
Barr also met with Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), John Kennedy (R-Louisiana), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), and Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia).
Sens. Manchin and Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) first introduced their bill in 2013, shortly after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, but it was blocked by Republicans and a handful of red-state Democrats concerned that the bill would do more harm than good.
Those concerns have not gone away. In an interview with Dana Loesch published yesterday, Cruz stated, “Manchin-Toomey — when it was voted on in 2013 — it was voted down. At the time, I voted no and I’m still a ‘no’ on it.”
Immediately after the mass murders in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, Manchin and Toomey met with President Trump to urge him to support their bill. “The president showed a willingness to work with us on the issue of strengthening background checks,” Toomey stated after the meeting.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has said that no gun control legislation would make progress until the president gave clear indications about what he would support.
While many reports from sources on the Hill have claimed that the document supporting expanded background checks was being pushed by Barr with Trump’s approval, his administration has denied the claims.
“That is not a White House document, and any suggestion to [the] contrary is completely false,” White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley reportedly said. “The president has not signed off on anything yet but … wants meaningful solutions.”
Barr also reportedly stated that the document did not have the express backing of Trump, but Barr himself has shown clear support for expanded background checks and other gun control measures.
During his confirmation hearing in January, Barr told Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-California) that “red flag” laws are the “single most important thing we can do in the gun control area to stop these massacres from happening in the first place.”
Trump has discussed the possibilities of red flag laws and expanding background checks, but has yet to endorse any particular legislation.
The Texas GOP opposes both policies, as indicated in a unanimously approved resolution by the state party.
Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Cruz have called for their own bill to be reconsidered, which would crackdown on people who lie on background checks rather than expand them.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.