On the Senate floor last week, I quoted John Adams’ famous remark that “facts are stubborn things.” It was my way of warning the groups who were spreading misinformation about my background check legislation that facts, not lies, ultimately prevail.
Unfortunately, my commonsense bill had a setback last week. The legislation got bipartisan support from a majority of senators, but it fell short of the 60 votes it needed to pass in the Senate. The vote left a lot of people who supported our bill disappointed.
I’m disappointed, but I’m also determined — because everybody who knows me knows that, like the facts John Adams spoke about, I’m pretty doggone stubborn myself when the facts – and the truth – are on my side.
I am determined to do all I can to protect American citizens, especially our children, from the kind of senseless violence we have seen committed by criminals and the violently mentally insane.
I will not back down until we’ve won this fight — not just to protect the public safety but also to protect the Second Amendment, which is what my bill does.
Most American gun owners are responsible and law-abiding. They use their guns for hunting, shooting and self-defense. The Second Amendment guarantees them the right to do so, and I will never do anything to infringe on that fundamental right.
In fact, the background check legislation I introduced in the Senate with Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania not only protects the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans – it actually strengthens them.
It does so by applying the existing rules for criminal and mental background checks at gun shops to gun shows and Internet sales to make it harder for criminals and the dangerously ill to get their hands on guns. It is just common sense to have one rule for everybody.
The gun lobby said our legislation would lead to a national registry of gun owners and make it a crime for relatives, friends or neighbors to sell, give or loan guns to each other.
Those claims are simply not true.
It’s already against the law to create a national registry of gun owners. But the Manchin-Toomey bill would take this protection of Second Amendment rights a giant step forward; it would explicitly prohibit the federal government from creating a registry and would make it a felony to do so, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Our bill also preserves important background check exemptions that exist in current law, like temporary transfers. That way, for example, you could loan your hunting rifle to your buddy without any new restrictions or requirements.
Our bill also makes it clear that transfers between family, friends and neighbors will not require background checks. That’s the law now, and there’s no reason to change it.
Our legislation also creates a fair appeals process for veterans who may have been wrongly categorized as unfit to own or purchase firearms.
If you are a law-abiding gun owner, you should like our bill.
If you are a believer in the Second Amendment right of Americans to keep and bear arms, you should like our bill.
If you want to treat veterans with the dignity and respect they deserve, you should like our bill.
If you are looking for ways to keep our citizens safe from mass violence, especially our precious children, you should like our bill.
But if you are a criminal, a drug dealer, a terrorist, or if a court has declared that you are a threat to yourself or others, you probably won’t like my bill because I’m making it harder for dangerous people to get guns.
And those are the cold, hard, stubborn facts.
— Joe Manchin is a U.S. senator