here Thursday, Rep. Peter King of New York, who—measured by the extremist leanings of his caucus—is a moderate, plans to introduce a bill Monday or Tuesday in the House of Representatives calling for background checks for buyers of firearms at gun shows and on the internet. His co-sponsor is Rep. Mike Thompson of California, one of the 14 remaining Blue Dog Democrats.
The proposal will be a match for the Senate compromise worked out between Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia. Their negotiations, which culminated more than three months worth of talks, produced a watered-down bill that would expand background checks that are currently mandated only for gun sales transacted by federally licensed dealers. Sales at gun shows, on the internet and advertised in any medium would be covered, but no checks would be required for face-to-face sales between private citizens.
What percentage of private gun sales are now transacted in that way is unknown, but it could easily be hundreds of thousands a year, a substantial loophole. There were more than 16 million background checks conducted by the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System in 2012.
King has said he favors a more inclusive background check system, but that would be a non-starter in the House even if such a proposal could clear the Senate, which it couldn't because some Democrats oppose it. Two of them, Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, went so far as to vote Thursday against even starting debate on new gun legislation. But there are other Democrats who may vote against the bill when it comes up for a Senate vote, assuming it isn't successfully filibustered.
King is certain other House Republicans will join him to support his background check proposal:
“We’re not talking about a majority, but a significant number realize we have to do something,” he said. “Certainly having Pat Toomey involved, who was such a solid conservative, and when you see the polls saying 90 percent [of Americans are] supporting [background checks], many Republicans see that as the way to go.”
King added that “when the time comes, if it comes to a vote, there will be significant support among Republicans.”
Assuming a gun bill does emerge from the Senate, Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas has vowed strong opposition
, and he will certainly not be alone.
Calculating exactly how many Republicans King must have on-board to get his proposal passed is complicated by not knowing how many Democrats would oppose it. Based on the investigative site ProPublica's assessment, 27 House Democrats have A+, A or B ratings from the gun industry's mouthpiece, the National Rifle Association. But both Toomey and Manchin have A ratings as well, and they reached a compromise that the NRA opposes. There are only two House Republicans who are not NRA graded with A+, A or B: 17-term Chris Smith of New Jersey and King.
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