“NO” on Schumer-Toomey-Manchin Amendment

Today, the Senate is expected to vote on the Schumer-Toomey-Manchin Amendment to so-called Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013 (S.649).  Much like the underlying bill, the Schumer-Toomey-Manchin Amendment is highly flawed.  It would infringe on Americans’ constitutional rights and do little to prevent horrific crimes such as the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

In addition to substantial Second Amendment concerns, the bill contains several additional flaws.

First, it would erode the privacy of law-abiding Americans.  The Schumer-Toomey-Manchin Amendment fails to recognize the importance of the patient-psychiatrist relationship by reducing existing privacy protections for mental health records relevant to background checks through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).  The bill leaves the dissemination of this information to the discretion of the Attorney General.  Additionally, the amendment would allow firearms dealers to secretly run government background checks on job applicants without their consent.

Second, it sets up a system to trap innocent citizens.  The Schumer-Toomey-Manchin Amendment would allow undercover sting operations at gun shows to arrest people for conduct that no reasonable person would believe was against the law.  The Schumer-Toomey-Manchin bill eliminates “any need for a federal prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury that the individual who allegedly broke the law had any kind of criminal intent.”

Third, the background check provision is much broader than the Amendment’s proponents acknowledge.  The sale of any firearm publicly advertised in any venue – such as internet, Facebook, a yard sign, a church flyer, etc. – would be forced to go through a background check.  To be clear, it is not just commercial sales.  For all practical purposes, this requirement destroys the private seller market and in rural areas forces law-abiding citizens to drive hundreds of miles to complete a transaction. The background check requirement would make exercising one’s Second Amendment rights more difficult and potentially reduce gun ownership among law-abiding citizens. Ultimately, this massive expansion of background checks can only be enforced through a national registry to ensure full compliance. In the absence of a national registry, the aggressive use of sting operations would be used to ensure compliance.

Fourth, as one of the sponsors acknowledged, it would do little to prevent horrific crimes such as the massacre in Newtown.   Gun control laws do not lead to a decrease in violence nor does gun ownership correlate to increased violence.  As Heritage notes, “If gun control were a panacea, then Washington, D.C., Oakland, and Chicago, which have very strict gun control laws, would be among the safest places to live rather than among the most dangerous.”

In totality, the bill will fail to achieve the desired results, and by infringing on Americans’ constitutional right to keep and bear arms, it will also fail to protect citizens’ right to self-defense.  Passage of “feel good” legislation will not make our communities or children safer because it ignores the root cause of these complex problems.  Real, enduring solutions lie at the state and local levels, and within families and communities.

Heritage Action opposes the Schumer-Toomey-Manchin Amendment and will include it as a key vote on our scorecard.  

Related links:
Heritage Action Scorecard
Schumer-Toomey-Manchin Gun Control Bill: Undercover Busts of Innocents at Gun Shows
Schumer-Toomey-Manchin Gun Control Bill: Feel Free to Run a Secret FBI Check on Job Applicants
Schumer-Toomey-Manchin Gun Control Bill: Cuts HIPAA Privacy for Mental Health Records
Heritage Action: Key Vote: “NO” on Senate Gun Bill