Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., are trying again at an obvious and needed improvement to gun safety — or the lack thereof.
The senatorial neighbors, in a continuation of their nearly decade-old partnership aimed at boosting gun safety, have joined a bipartisan group of senators — five Democrats and five Republicans — in reintroducing legislation to help states enforce the law against people who lie on their background check in an effort to purchase a gun.
This is a common-sense piece of legislation that doesn't call for any new restrictions on gun purchases. Instead, the NICS Denial Notification Act would simply require federal authorities to alert state and local law enforcement within 24 hours if someone who is legally prohibited from purchasing a firearm — a felon or fugitive, for example — tried to buy one.
It's a bill aimed at enforcing current laws against someone who lies on a background check, a crime the lawmakers say rarely gets prosecuted.
In 37 states and the District of Columbia, state and local officials rely on the FBI to run background checks through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, but local law enforcement is generally unaware if someone fails. Although Toomey is a sponsor, the proposal would have little impact on his home state since Pennsylvania is one of the 13 that performs its own background checks on gun sales.
The measure, instead, is part of the ongoing effort by Toomey and Manchin to get some sort of gun safety legislation passed. The two joined forces eight years ago after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut left 26 people dead, including 20 children.
While a bill that would require federal officials to inform local law enforcement of a failed background check would seem a no-brainer, the same measure failed in the Senate three years ago and faces an uncertain future this time around.
The Senate will also be taking up bills passed March 11 by the House that would establish new background check requirements for purchases made online, at gun shows or through person-to-person transfers. A second House bill would extend the review period for a background check from three days to 10 days.
These measures, which passed the House with limited Republican support and deserve a thumbs up from the Senate, are expansions of the current background check policy and, as such, already are being assailed by opponents as infringements on the Second Amendment. Getting them through the Senate will be no easy task.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE