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Public Statements

Gun Safety

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. MANCHIN. Mr. President, I come from a State where, like most of the rural States in America, there are an awful lot of people who live a solid life. There is a thing back home that we call a person having either common sense or nonsense, and now we think people ought to have a little gun sense. It just makes sense when we think about what we are doing--not infringing on anybody's rights but protecting those rights--by prohibiting those who shouldn't be able to have a firearm through a commercial transaction from getting one.

My good friend Senator Toomey was just talking about second amendment rights, which all of us hold near and dear if a person comes from a gun culture State such as ours. With that being said--I just talked about common sense and gun sense--one of the largest progun organizations in the country, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, which is strictly for the right to protect the second amendment, has come out in total support of this legislation--total support. Do my colleagues know why? Because they read the bill. That is all we are asking. They read the bill.

A lot of our colleagues have been told certain things. We have a lot of friends in different gun organizations who have been told different things. All Senator Toomey and I ask is to take the time and read the bill.

We started out working this bill from so many different angles. Everybody had a part in this. What we tried to do was find something that would make a difference.

I want my colleagues to think about this: Most of our colleagues have been visited by those unbelievable families from Newtown. I can't even imagine--I really can't, I still cannot--I know the Presiding Officer probably saw the clips when I lost control of my emotions, but I am a grandfather, I am a father, and I can only imagine what these families are going through.

Let me put my colleagues in that state of mind, of losing a child in such a tragic way. A child goes to school. A parent would never expect that child not to come home from school--one of the most sacred places we have--but it happens. How would my colleagues feel? What state of mind would they be in? Let me tell my colleagues their state of mind. To a person, each one of these family members came in and said: We don't want to take anybody's guns away. We don't want to ban any weapons. We don't want to infringe on people's second amendment right.

On top of that, they said: We really know and realize the bill the Senate is working on right now would not have saved our beautiful little children. But what we are asking the Senate to do is maybe save another family, just maybe prevent another family from going through what we went through.

We need to think about that. I wish I could be that strong. I said that if 100 of us in this body had 1 ounce of the courage those family members have, oh, my goodness, what a body we would have. If we weren't worried about all of the outside pressure and maybe getting elected, maybe getting the campaign funds it would take for us to go out and get elected, if we worried about basically keeping a gun out of the hands of a criminal in a commercial transaction--a criminal who has gone through a court system and has been found guilty--or out of the hands of a mentally insane person who has gone through a court and found to be unfit, just maybe we could save one life.

Someone says: Well, why would the Senate take this on? I don't know why else we were sent here other than to try to make a difference. The easiest vote I can make while I am a Senator is no. I can vote no on about everything and be fine. I can go home and people won't say: Why did you do that?

I am glad you voted that way because I don't like that either.

Do my colleagues follow me? ``No'' is the safest vote as a Congressperson or a Senator. I understand that.

It is wonderful, I guess, to have the title of ``Senator.'' It is a great honor to be in this unbelievable body with these truly magnificent people. I want to make a difference. I want to do something, and I think most of my colleagues do as well.

The only thing I am asking of my colleagues who have been told something or have heard something or have gotten pressured phone calls and letters is to read the bill. Just read it. It is only 49 pages. When have we had something that could change the course of our country and it is only 49 pages long? I have seen bills that were 1,000 pages, 500 pages, amendments that were 300 pages. We have an entire bill that is 49 pages. That is all we have asked for. That is all.

My dear friend Senator Toomey and I are going to be on the floor for quite some time. Tomorrow we will probably be joined by our other good friends, Senator Kirk and Senator Schumer. Everybody has come together. Senator Schumer started with a piece for the bill, and I said: My dear friend Chuck, I can't support that.

He said: Can I work with you?

I said: I would love for you to work with me.

My dear friend Mark Kirk from Illinois has been steadfast and rock solid. He has been right there.

This is bipartisan. Bipartisan--is it Democratic and Republican? This is America. I don't want to say it is bipartisan. This is America. This is about whether we can make a difference. Can we change something? Can we have the influence of people who are basically the most unselfish, strongest, bravest people I have ever met, including the families of the Newtown children, to be able to come and say: Listen, I want to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens. I want people to have their rights. I want people to enjoy their guns. I want people to enjoy their hunting trips with their families. I want people to enjoy all the things the second amendment gives us. But I want to protect another family, protect another child, protect another person in America.

That is all we are trying to do.

As we look through the bill, there are so many different things we have talked about. I have heard people say: Oh, my goodness, they are going to start registering, and they are going to give all of those records to some big fancy computer that is going to know exactly where to come and get the gun of the Presiding Officer.

Not only does the law prohibit that today, this bill--when we pass this bill, this law will basically say: If any government agency intends to do that and abuse that record the law-abiding firearm dealer is supposed to keep--and only them--it will not only be a felony, it will entail 15 years of imprisonment. That is why we have these organizations basically joining in after looking at and reading the bill and saying: My goodness, this is really protecting second amendment rights.

So it is an emotional bill. It is an emotional time in our country, but truly it is a time for us to come together. It truly is. There is healing that must go on, and this bill will help that healing.

We want to talk about this, and we are going to go into it detail by detail, step by step.

I thank my good friend Senator Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania, and I yield the floor.


Mr. MANCHIN. Mr. President, if my friend will yield, if I may, I would like to mention that we also discussed including an incentive so someone can't say that is an unfunded mandate. That provision is not an unfunded mandate, I say to my colleague.


Mr. MANCHIN. I thank the good Senator from Pennsylvania. I appreciate that. I think what he said is spot-on. He is basically saying it preserves important exemptions of background checks that are in current law, such as the temporary transfers. That way, for example, a person can lend their hunting rifle. We are hearing all of those misnomers, such as that people can't even lend their hunting rifle to a friend or a family member. People can do that. We are not preventing that. There are no restrictions in those circumstances. Also under current law are transfers between families, friends, and neighbors, which we have already talked about. That can be done. That is not what we are talking about. Again, it is just common sense.

As I said, the Senator from Pennsylvania, as well as our other colleagues, Senator Kirk and Senator Schumer, and I have been talking back and forth about this. This is not a bill written by just Senators. We have had input from the outside. We have included people from all different walks of life. We would then proceed to do a little research to find out if what they suggested made sense and if it had been done and if it hadn't, whether an infringement occurred to a person who has not been able to enjoy their rights as a law-abiding citizen. We did all of that.

I appreciate so much the Senator from Pennsylvania pointing out those issues, and we will talk more about it later.

I yield for the Senator from Pennsylvania.


Mr. MANCHIN. Mr. President, I think we all have letters such as Senator Toomey read right now and people looking for what we call gun sense, which goes right along with common sense. There is so much out there about the bill. Let me just reiterate a couple of things the bill does not do.

What the bill will not do: The bill will not in any way, shape, or form infringe upon anyone's second amendment right to keep and bear arms. In fact, it strengthens that, as Senator Toomey has so eloquently described.

The bill will not take away anyone's guns. Nobody will have their guns taken away. The bill will not ban any type of a firearm. It is not even in the bill. We are not banning anything. The bill will not ban or restrict the use of any kind of bullet or any size of clip. It is not in this legislation.

The bill will not create a national registry, which we just spoke about. In fact, it explicitly prohibits that, which would give the penalties of a felony and a 15-year sentence. As we talk about this bill, we are asking our colleagues to come down and bring their questions, concerns, or what they believe and what they have seen in talking to their constituents.

Right now I am very pleased to have with me a colleague of mine from the Big Sky State of Montana. He comes from gun culture like myself and Senator Toomey. I yield to the Senator from Montana.


Mr. MANCHIN. I would say that more than 90 percent of the background checks in America that are done are less than 3 minutes, and probably even no more than a minute and a half. So in that range. That tells you about how quick it can be done.


Mr. MANCHIN. All of the Members who worked on the bill, Senators Toomey, Kirk, and Schumer, all of us got together on that. There had to be--basically, one of our largest gun organizations brought us to task saying: We supported background checks 10 or more years ago. It just did not work.

You know what. They were right. So we said: Fine. Do you throw the baby out with the bathwater or do you change the water and make it a little bit better?

So we went back and looked at it. We said: Fine. We did not want any unfunded mandates. We put $100 million a year for 4 years for the States to have grants to get them up and running to where they should be. So there is an incentive. We also said: If you do not do your job and you do not turn your records over of your adjudicated criminals or mental illness records, then 10 percent the first year, 11 percent--then I think it goes to 13 and up to 15. That is off of the Byrne/JAG money. Every State depends on that Byrne/JAG money. That is serious. No one else has ever put that in there.

You know what. That concern came from the gun organizations right now, one of them who is not supporting it and should be.


Mr. MANCHIN. I wish to thank my good friend, the Senator from Montana. I know how many calls he has received and the pressure. I know this because of all of the misconceptions and untruths. He did something we are asking all of our colleagues to do. He read the bill and found out for himself this bill does exactly what we have been trying to do for a long time: most importantly, protect the innocent and our people by keeping guns away from people and children who shouldn't have them. He read the bill. This is all we have asked for.

I yield for my friend from Pennsylvania, Senator Toomey.


Mr. MANCHIN. I wish to thank Senator Toomey for his hard work, to be involved, informed, and to bring his expertise to the discussion we have had with our colleagues.

As he has been speaking we have been joined by our good friend Senator Tester from Montana. Those of us who come from a gun culture State can put some of these myths to the side, if you will, and allow the facts to come out.

I think the most important thing about speaking today for a while is that we are not creating new law, we are improving old law. This is what we were sent here to do.

My father used to say the only thing that is new in this world is a pair of eyes. Everything else has been pretty much an improvement of what someone else has done. This is what we are trying to do. We are improving on a system which needed to be improved.

We spoke about the veterans, as Senator Toomey has. I didn't know how veterans were treated when they came home. We are in a war which has lasted longer than 12 years and counting. There are hundreds of thousands of men and women who have put their lives on the line for us and come back with challenges. If they have been affected by this war, they are almost afraid to be evaluated because if they are not evaluated in a positive way, they could be discriminated against.

I think that is wrong unless in a process and procedure they are found to not be competent. We have 150,000 who perhaps were not notified of their rights. We need to make sure they have the appeal process available to them. When this legislation passes, every veteran coming back going through a court proceeding can say: Wait a minute. I went through a field process, and I think your evaluation is wrong.

We can't put them in a system they need to work the rest of their lives to undo. I think we owe that to our great veterans in this country. Again, it comes down to simply reading the bill, not making up things, and listening to organizations that may be using this fear tactic as a campaign to raise funds, finances, and money. I don't like to say that. I am a proud member of organizations. They do a lot of good and informing and teaching safety to young children. We do a lot of things.

I had the benefit of growing up in a town with a sportsmen's club called the Farmington Sportsmen's Club. My father was not a big sportsman, but he wanted me to be involved. He worked a lot and didn't have time. These people took me under their wing at a very young time and taught me to respect and to use firearms safely. They taught me to be totally responsible, such as when I should put a shell in the gun, when I should not put in a shell, when I should have it in my case. Also, they taught me when I should carry it in the woods and when I cross the fence the gun should be unloaded.

All of us have heard of horrific accidents. These are just little things. They ingrained this into me. A lot of these organizations do good deeds. When they put misinformation out, they do a disservice to law-abiding gun owners and the people who respect the right the second amendment provides. Senator Toomey has eloquently spoken about this, as well as Senator Tester.

This is going to continue for some time, I am understanding, and we are going to be talking, Senator Toomey and I. We will be joined by other colleagues--Senators Kirk, Schumer, and Tester--and we are inviting all of our colleagues to come down. If you have heard something from a constituent or from an organization, come down and talk to us about it. We will show you in the bill that it doesn't do what they have said.

The biggest thing we have heard is about the registration. It doesn't do that. Not only does it not do it, it even protects you more than you are protected today by law. We improve upon it. It doesn't take anybody's guns away. I think Senator Toomey talked about basically there are things he wouldn't vote for, nor would I. But guess what. That is not in this bill. There will be other bills, other amendments, that all colleagues will have a chance to either support, if they are for more gun support, or oppose.

What we are saying is, this is one piece of legislation we know will make a difference by keeping guns out of the hands of those who have been adjudicated through a mental court system or a criminal court system. And we know about commercial transactions--people have used all different types of figures as to how many guns basically are transferred at a gun show or online. With the expansion of the Internet there are going to be more and more. All we are saying is that is the least personal of all transactions--on the Internet. I might not know you, Mr. President, but up in your beautiful State of Maine I may see something you have that I would like, and with the technology of this modern world today to make contact, hopefully, I would be able to purchase that. That is something I could never have done 20, 30, or 40 years ago. But I want to make sure also that gun is sent to a licensed dealer who depends on his livelihood by abiding by the law and making sure a background check is done on me before I can purchase or pick up that gun I bought from you. That only makes common sense.

I have heard a lot of things such as: Well, they can be charging a lot. Fees can be charged. We allow the person who is going to be doing that service for you to charge a fee. Let me tell you, as a businessperson, every one of us in business, especially retailers, knows exactly the value of every customer who walks through a door. You might say: Well, they are just shopping. My grandfather says: There is no such thing as a shopper. They are all buyers. They just don't know it yet. They are going to buy something. They walk through the store and they have a value. And if they have a value, you know what is going to happen? You are going to see people advertising: Please come and let us do your background check free for you. That is a service we want to give you. We want you to be right and make sure the right person gets it. And guess what. They might be buying something else. They might buy new boots or some camouflage gear for their son or buy their daughter a new outfit.

That is marketing. That is business. That is what it is all about. So don't let the naysayers say: Oh no, too much of a burden. Trust me, the markets have a unique ability to correct themselves and take advantage of a situation. As a retailer, when a customer--a buyer, not a shopper--comes through the door, we will sell them something. I know that.

So we are going to be happy to talk about this bill for a few days here. We want to invite all our colleagues down. We will be announcing the times we will be coming to the floor. In the meantime, to all of my colleagues, to all who have been hearing all of these things and getting excited about we are going to do something to take your guns away or take your rights away or register you, that is false. That is a baldfaced falsehood. All we are saying is go online and read the bill. It is only 49 pages. We have even broken it down for you. If colleagues will do that, and bring those conversations to the floor, that is all we can ask. The facts will set you free. The facts will set you free.

We have worked hard. Our staffs have worked exceedingly hard. And I appreciate everybody--my good friend Senator Toomey, my good friend Senator Tester, and the other Senators; Senator Kirk from Illinois and Senator Schumer from New York--who has worked so hard to find a balance. It takes us all, from the right and the left, from both sides of the aisle--Republicans, Democrats, and Independents--to work together to make this an American bill. It is not just bipartisan, it is for our country. It is to save children, it is to keep our society safe, and also to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens and law-abiding gun owners such as myself and the Presiding Officer.

With that, I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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