State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Toomey announces background checks plan

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Apr 10, 2013 2:17 PM
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Photo by Mary Wilson / witf

Enola resident Christine Licata, with six-year-old daughter Anna, speaks in support of extending background checks to all gun purchases.

Pennsylvania's junior U.S. senator has played a big role in a bipartisan deal on legislation to extend background checks to certain firearm purchases.

Republican Pat Toomey said in a conference call Wednesday the amendment would require background checks for purchases of firearms at gun shows and online. Gun transfers between family members and private citizens, he said, would be exceptions to the background checks rule.

"If a dad wants to give as a gift a gun to his son, I don't think a background check should be required for that," said Toomey. "If a neighbor wants to sell his shotgun to you know his next door neighbor for 30 years, I don't think we need a background check on that."

Toomey announced the proposal alongside Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who, like Toomey, enjoys a strong rating from the National Rifle Association. 

Toomey said he still opposes banning military-style semi-automatic rifles as well as high capacity magazines, and called the newfound compromise a "common sense" amendment, not an example of gun control legislation.

"Common ground is found, I think, based on the proposition that criminals and mentally ill people shouldn't have guns," said Toomey, "and I don't think that should be a controversial idea."

But 75 state House Republicans are urging Toomey to abandon the proposal (the House GOP has 111 members). Meanwhile, some of their Democratic counterparts are calling for action on a state proposal similar to Toomey's.

That plan, sponsored by Rep. Steve Santasiero (D-Bucks), would extend background checks to the sale of long-barrel guns and military style semi-automatic rifles, except for sales and transfers between family members. The state proposal has just two GOP supporters in the Republican-controlled chamber.

Steve Miskin, spokesman for the House GOP, suggested it would do little to prevent the sale of firearms to those with a criminal history, saying all gun purchases require background checks - but only when the sales are facilitated by licensed dealers. Santasiero's bill would require a background check even in transactions with non-licensed sellers.

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