Atmosphere poisons work

At another time, in a different context, Sens. Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey might have been successful in a proposal they and two other senators offered recently. At the very least, there might have been some willingness by lawmakers to discuss the idea and, perhaps, alter it slightly to make it more palatable.

But as it was, Manchin, D-W.Va., and Toomey, R-Pa., were defeated.

Manchin and Toomey had crafted an amendment to a Senate gun control bill. Two other senators co-sponsored it.

About two weeks ago, 54 senators voted in favor of the measure while only 46 said no. Because the vote was on a procedural matter, 60 senators would have had to agree for the amendment to proceed.

One reason Manchin-Toomey was shot down was that the National Rifle Association opposed it. Manchin was furious about that, accusing the organization of lying to its members about the measure.

Meanwhile, those who favor true infringements upon Americans’ Second Amendment rights were angry, too.

The climate in which senators voted was not conducive to reasonable debate and willingness to compromise.

Manchin-Toomey’s goal was simple: It would have closed some loopholes in existing requirements that gun buyers undergo background checks. Certain classes of people, including those with criminal records, are supposed to be turned down for gun purchases.

Existing law does not require background checks for those who purchase firearms at gun shows or, in some cases, through Internet transactions. Manchin and Toomey wanted to extend the law to cover such purchasers.

Their amendment specified exemptions for transactions between family members. It also specified the gun show inclusion would not affect people who show and sell guns from personal collections in their homes.

But the NRA objected, principally, it appears, because sales of guns among friends and casual acquaintances might still have required background checks.

Again, in a less heated atmosphere, that might have been discussed in the Senate. Manchin and Toomey might have been persuaded to rewrite their bill, perhaps with an exemption for occasional sales of guns among non-relatives.

That did not happen because there is precious little room for compromise – and both sides in the argument are to blame for that.

Manchin has suggested he and Toomey may try again. They should, simply to close a loophole in existing law.