WASHINGTON — Following a meeting with President Donald Trump and other lawmakers Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said what he heard in the discussion was “very encouraging” in regards to strengthening the national background check system.
Manchin and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania issued a joint statement after the televised roundtable saying Congress should act quickly to change the nation’s gun policy.
“His desire for a comprehensive approach to strengthening the background check system, and specifically using Manchin-Toomey as the foundation, would achieve our shared goal of keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, the dangerously mentally ill, and terrorists while respecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans,” the senators said.
The session comes in light of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, in which 17 people died.
Manchin and Toomey introduced a bipartisan gun measure in 2013 following the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, which received 54 votes in the Senate, six votes short of the 60 votes needed to advance. The bill would strengthen how information is reported to the national background check system, and require background checks for sales at gun shows and over the internet.
“I do think our bill has the best chance to move forward,” Toomey said.
President Barack Obama supported the bill, but Manchin said gun owners at the time felt the Obama administration would use the measure to push for more regulations.
“There’s not a person in West Virginia that believes you’re not going to defend their Second Amendment rights,” he said to Trump. “This is a bill that, basically with your support, it would pass.”
Trump recommended merging the Manchin-Toomey measure with legislation backed by Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut. The Cornyn-Murphy measure would penalize federal agencies for failing to upload records to the federal background check system and reward states for improving reporting efforts.
The president also mentioned increasing the age to 21 in order to buy certain firearms. Dick’s Sportings Goods announced Wednesday morning it would not sell any firearms to anyone younger than 21, and Walmart announced later it would not allow anyone younger than 21 to purchase guns or ammunition.
Trump said after talking with leaders of the National Rifle Association on Sunday, there is interest in passing legislation.
“I’m telling you, I think they’re there. I think they’re there,” he said. “Some of you people are petrified of the NRA. You can’t be petrified. They want to do what’s right.”
Trump also talked about taking people’s firearms without a court order, addressing mental health and the impact of violence in movies and video games.