Susan Collins To Support Manchin-Toomey Gun Bill

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) gave the Manchin-Toomey background check compromise a boost over the weekend by becoming the third Republican to support it, along with Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL).

“I have decided to support the bipartisan compromise authored by Senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey to strengthen the background check system without in any way infringing on Second Amendment rights,” she said in a statement, calling it a “vast improvement” over universal background check proposals which she said included provisions that were “onerous and completely unnecessary.”

Collins kept her options open on the final legislation that emerges after amendments.

“The Manchin-Toomey amendment is a proposal I can and will support,” she said, “but it is impossible to predict at this point the final composition of the overall legislation.”

Her full statement:

“I grew up in Northern Maine where responsible gun ownership is part of the heritage of virtually every family. I strongly support our Second Amendment rights, and two recent Supreme Court decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago make clear that those constitutional rights pertain to the individual. During the past few months, I have met with countless people with a wide range of views, including the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, Maine law enforcement officials, the NRA, victims of gun violence, licensed gun dealers, mental health professionals, and school superintendents, among others. We have discussed issues including the inadequacy of mental health services, gaps in the reporting of data to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS,) school safety, excessive violence in videogames and movies, the lack of effective laws for gun trafficking and “straw purchases” aimed at getting guns in the hands of criminals, and many other issues.

“As a result of these extensive discussions, I have decided to support the bipartisan compromise authored by Senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey to strengthen the background check system without in any way infringing on Second Amendment rights. Their proposal represents a vast improvement over the provisions authored by Senator Chuck Schumer currently in the bill. Senator Schumer’s language, which I opposed, would have required a father giving a gun to his daughter, or a brother selling a hunting rifle to his brother, to undergo background checks, which I found to be onerous and completely unnecessary. The Manchin-Toomey compromise takes a much more common sense approach by requiring background checks only for commercial transactions and exempts family gifts and transfers. To improve the quality and completeness of the data in the NICS, their bill would also mandate improvements that would require states and the federal government to send all relevant records on criminals and the people who are dangerously mentally ill through state plans developed in conjunction with the Department of Justice. It was critical to my support that the Manchin-Toomey bill explicitly bans the federal government from creating a national firearms registry and imposes serious criminal penalties on any person who misuses or illegally retains firearms records.

“I also am pleased that the Manchin-Toomey amendment would create a National Commission on Mass Violence, a proposal I have long endorsed, that would convene experts to study all aspects of these horrific attacks that have plagued our country and caused so much death and created such unbearable anguish for the survivors and their families.

“Obviously, this debate has just begun, and this important amendment is just one of many that will be considered. The Manchin-Toomey amendment is a proposal I can and will support, but it is impossible to predict at this point the final composition of the overall legislation.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
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