Senate Defeats Gun Control Bills
Following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, the country was rightly focused on steps we might take to help stop such horrible crimes from happening. Unfortunately, the proposals offered in the Senate — including the expansion of background checks and bans on certain semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines — served primarily to restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens, while doing little, if anything, to prevent the kind of tragic crimes that took place in Newtown, Connecticut, and Aurora, Colorado.
The background-check amendment offered by Sens. Pat Toomey and Joe Manchin was too vague for law-abiding citizens to understand with certainty, and too easy for criminals to avoid. The plan created more questions than it answered about which types of transfers are lawful without a background check and might ensnare law-abiding gun owners simply exercising their constitutional rights. It also left in place a number of gaps that could easily be exploited by criminals intent on obtaining guns.
The Toomey-Manchin amendment admirably attempted to carve out certain protections for gun owners, but today’s carve-outs are tomorrow’s loopholes. The current “gun show loophole” was itself once considered a legitimate carve-out that protected certain private sales.
The amendment also took an incremental step toward universal background checks, which, as a Justice Department memo written earlier this year suggested, are effective only when coupled with a national registration system. Admittedly, the Toomey-Manchin plan prohibited a national registry. Yet it required a massive expansion of gun ownership data collected by federally licensed dealers to which the government has access.
After all, you cannot track all gun sales without tracking all gun owners. But the government has no business monitoring constitutionally protected activity, like gun ownership, any more than it has any business tracking what books Americans read or how often they attend church.
Gun-control advocates point to polls that show support for expanding background checks. But members of Congress do not get to vote on broad poll questions. They have to vote on specific legislation. If we are trying to minimize the burden on law-abiding gun owners while taking significant steps to prevent the next Sandy Hook, the Toomey-Manchin amendment, and the others that would have limited Second Amendment rights, failed both elements of that test. And that is why they failed to pass the Senate.
As we debated these gun control bills, I created a page on my website called Protect 2A to give Americans the chance to add their voice to this debate. I received thousands of submissions from citizens who were concerned that the measures we were debating would limit constitutionally protected rights. I read several of these submissions from the Senate Floor in an effort to persuade my colleagues that these gun control proposals posed a threat to our 2nd Amendment rights.
I would like to thank all those who added their voice to protect the 2nd Amendment. You can view my reading of these statements on the Senate floor by clicking on the following links: