New Castle News

April 16, 2013

Our Opinion: Republican and Democratic senators join on gun issue

By Staff
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Something very unexpected happened last week in the nation’s debate over guns.

Two senators, conservative Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and conservative Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, announced a proposal that maybe, just maybe, may get somewhere.

Basically, the bill Toomey and Manchin are touting would expand criminal background checks for guns purchased online and at gun shows. To law enforcement and other entities, the lack of such checks under current laws is seen as a major loophole that puts weapons in the hands of criminals.

But on the other side of the gun debate, any restrictions regarding purchases are viewed as Second Amendment violations. The National Rifle Association, for instance, is opposing the Toomey-Manchin measure.

Yet the way we see it, why should it be easier to anonymously purchase a gun at a show than at a brick-and-mortar sporting goods store? This particular legislation strikes us as prudent and no real impediment to the ability of law-abiding citizens to purchase weapons.

At this point, we don’t know if this measure will pass. The vote in the Senate, possibly tomorrow, is expected to be close. And it’s likely to be even more difficult to get it through the House.

Regardless of the outcome, we hope reasonable people will recognize the efforts of Toomey and Manchin in terms of working on this issue. Both are in their first terms in the Senate, and it’s likely no one would have noticed had they kept quiet where gun measures are concerned.

Plus, their legislation is an example of bipartisanship, something that’s all too rare in Washington.

We recognize that guns are a polarizing issue in this country. For some people, guns represent a threat. For others, it’s the notion of regulating guns that’s the threat.

Certainly the addition of background checks at gun shows won’t end shootings and other gun crimes. But they will add a hurdle to the process without creating an unusual burden for legitimate purchasers.

Meanwhile, critics of gun control measures argue that such restrictions ignore other concerns regarding violence. They want to see better ways to identify and treat mentally ill individuals who are prone to acts of bloodshed. They also want to explore the nature of violence in general, noting that possession of a gun does not turn an individual into a killer.

We think those are valid issues for lawmakers to address. And the congressional debate over the Toomey-Manchin proposal is a good way to initiate those discussions. Finding ways to minimize violence in America need not be a political bloodsport.