Toomey-Manchin Said to Seek Background Check Compromise

A Democratic proponent of expanded background checks for gun purchasers is seeking a compromise with Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, according to Senate aides.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Toomey began talks last week last week after discussions stalled between New York Democrat Charles Schumer and Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn, said two Senate aides who asked for anonymity to describe the private discussions.

President Barack Obama is pressuring Congress to enact tougher gun-control measures four months after the shooting that killed 20 school children and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut. Obama plans to speak in the state tonight, and 11 relatives of Newtown victims will fly to Washington with him on Air Force One, a White House official said. The family members plan to urge members of Congress to pass gun legislation.

Connecticut lawmakers enacted one of the nation’s toughest gun laws last week. It bans semi-automatic weapons like the one used in the Newtown shooting and expands background checks.

The plan being discussed by Manchin and Toomey would require background checks for almost all purchases, with exceptions for transfers between close family members and for some loans of weapons between hunters, one Senate aide said.

The background check plan would be part of a package of gun-safety legislation that includes anti-trafficking and school-safety measures. The full Senate is likely to consider the measure next week.

2012 Election

Coburn, who objected to a paperwork requirement related to background checks, comes from a solidly Republican state. Toomey faces re-election in 2016 in Pennsylvania, which backed Obama in last year’s presidential election. Manchin was endorsed by the National Rifle Association in the past and his state was won by the Republican presidential candidate in the last four elections.

CeaseFirePA, a Pennsylvania gun-safety advocacy group, said last week that Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and the state’s former Democratic governor, Edward Rendell, will attend a rally tomorrow outside Toomey’s Philadelphia office to urge action on legislation.

Federal law has required background checks for all commercial sales since 1993, though there is no requirement for private sales or sales between individuals at gun shows.

Any deal on background checks would give Obama a symbolic victory after much of the gun agenda he proposed in January after the Newtown shootings has been scaled back.

The NRA, the nation’s biggest lobby for gun owners and manufacturers with $219 million in revenue, has used its influence with Congress to throw up hurdles to legislation.

The centerpiece of the president’s plan, a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, will be offered as an amendment that stands almost no chance of passing the Senate.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.