Toomey’s plan can’t stop gun violence

While most Americans would agree with U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey that criminals and mentally ill people shouldn’t have guns, we’re not sure his proposal to expand background checks will have much effect in stopping the massacres that have rocked our nation.

By the same token, it also won’t unduly burden those seeking to lawfully purchase guns.

Toomey, the Pennsylvania Republican, and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., on Wednesday announced a compromise that would expand background checks on firearms purchases while also prohibiting the government from compiling a national firearms registry.

The senators’ Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act would close the so-called gun-show loophole by requiring that firearms purchasers at gun shows and over the Internet be subject to a background check, just like people who buy guns at licensed stores.

The legislation has some acceptable provisions, such as requiring background checks for more gun transactions and encouraging the states to submit mental health records that would be part of those checks, but this won’t be a panacea for the gun violence that has rocked our nation.

Requiring gun-show and Internet transactions for firearms might stop some purchases, but the requirement might be largely symbolic because it only will affect people trying to legally purchase a gun.

It will do nothing to stop the illegal sales of weapons. Because of the willingness of these sellers and buyers to break the law, no legislation can stop them. Even if all guns were illegal – something that would violate our freedoms and Constitution – criminals would still find ways to get firearms.

Another mixed-bag aspect of the Toomey-Manchin bill is its exemption transfers of weapons between family members and neighbors from background checks.

How “family” and “neighbors” are defined will be interesting.

Many Americans can understand passing on a weapon between members of immediate families or even between a grandparent and a grandchild as an method of ensuring the cherished gun stays within the family.

But is, for example, family going to include a third cousin twice removed, especially if there is no evidence of a close, ongoing familial relationship?

Even potentially more troubling is what constitutes a neighbor. There’s a huge difference between a neighbor who is a close, trusted friend and a person who just happens lives near you and who you wouldn’t want in your home.

We understand the desire to find a way to address the problem of gun violence in our country, especially given the horrific massacres that we’ve seen.

The Toomey-Manchin measure might provide some relief around the edges, but we don’t believe it or any other law will make the slightest difference when someone desires to cause as many deaths as possible.

You can’t regulate a person’s thoughts or desires – especially for someone deranged enough to contemplate a massacre – no matter how well-intentioned a law might be.