Manchin: "Good Dialogue" With The President on Background Checks

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) told CBS’ “Face The Nation” host Margaret Brennan that there’s been “good dialogue” between President Trump and lawmakers hoping to craft legislation dealing with “red flag” laws and expanded mandates for background checks, calling the moment a “golden opportunity to start making America safe again by starting with this basic building block of background checks.”


“It’s been very encouraging with the dialogue going back and forth and all the people meeting and all of the staffs working together trying to find a pathway forward. I can’t tell you the end result, I can’t tell you what the final product will be, but we’re working in a most common sense procedure of what we can get the votes for to do something that truly starts making America safe again. We have a responsibility. People are afraid to go out in their communities or let their children go to different types of things that would be a gathering of more than a couple people and they’re concerned about this and we shouldn’t be living in fear in America. America should be safe and we can do that.”

The West Virginia senator, who may announce a run for governor of the state in just a few weeks, billed any sort of background check bill as just “commonsense”.

“I’m a gun owner. No one’s gonna take my guns away. I’m gonna protect the 2nd Amendment. I’m a law-abiding gun owner. I’m going to do the right thing but I can tell you if I go to a gun show or I go on the Internet and somebody wants to buy my gun and I don’t know who they are, I’ve been taught not to sell my gun to a stranger, to someone that has criminal background, to someone who’s not mentally stable, these are things that we’re going to make those decisions but when you don’t know somebody don’t you think you can at least come to that agreement that that makes sense?”


No one’s gonna take your guns away, Senator? Have you talked with Beto lately?

Manchin also tried to pitch the “red flag” legislation that Lindsey Graham and Richard Blumenthal are working on.

“So many other good things have been brought to the table. You know, the red flag bill that Lindsey Graham and a lot of us are working on makes sense; that if we can identify and get somebody help before they do something, some horrible tragedy, should be done. And we have the ability to do these things that really make sense.”

The reference to “get somebody help” in terms of red flag legislation is interesting, because we haven’t heard too many specifics about the Graham/Blumenthal bill, other than the fact that it wouldn’t create any sort of federal “red flag” law but would instead offer grants to states that implement laws. Will mental health treatment be a requirement for any state seeking to adopt such a law? That would be new, because very few of the existing laws mandate mental health treatment at all.

When it comes to presidential approval of any proposed legislation, Manchin says there’s been no sign-off from the White House, but notes that even having the conversation with Trump is new.

“There’s no promise on any of this right now, it’s just open, but we have good dialogue. We haven’t had this before. We’re working, we have working groups together and he’s said he’s very encouraged. He wants something to happen and I’m saying, ‘President Trump, this is yours. It doesn’t happen unless you stand up and you have a bill that you basically support and this is your piece of legislation, and it should be a gunsense bill that makes sense to all gun owners.”


If you want a bill that makes sense to gun owners, Senator, you might quit using gun control terms like “gunsense”.  And the Manchin/Toomey background check bill, which requires background checks on private sales at gun shows and sales that originate on the Internet, doesn’t make much sense at all.

When I look at any gun control proposal, I consider three things: constitutionality, enforceability, and effectiveness. I think courts would likely uphold the Manchin/Toomey background check bill, but I have a very hard time seeing how this law could be enforced, especially proactively. There’s no way for the federal government to know if a private sale is taking place, whether between friends, family, or neighbors. There’s no way to police sales that might originate on the Internet, especially if the actual transfer takes place in-person. This is a law that would apply after the fact; if an unlawful transfer is discovered in the investigation of a crime involving a firearm, for example. As for effectiveness, we’ve seen no evidence that even broader “universal background check” laws don’t lead to increased background checks, so I’m skeptical that Manchin’s proposal would be any more effective.

Unfortunately it’s clear that many politicians in D.C. aren’t asking “Is it constitutional? Is it enforceable? Is it effective?” when it comes to gun control proposals. The mindset among far too many of our elected officials right now is simply “can we get the votes so we can say we did something?”






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