Manchin-Toomey 2013: Why I Opposed Universal Background Checks, and Why I Was Wrong


As a libertarian conservative, I been a vocal critic of all gun bans, whether on “assault weapons” or otherwise. Many people who share my beliefs often refer to the Second Amendment to justify their view, but I have practical reasons to oppose gun bans. All bans do is grant a monopoly to the black market. For example, alcohol’s prohibition gave organized crime a monopoly on liquor. So do bans make us safer? Without hesitation I would say they do not. Even the Clinton-era Federal Assault Weapons Ban failed to prevent the Columbine shooting, because of the illegal purchases of firearms. Simply put, the reason why bans do not work is because the black market does not perform background checks. The libertarian in me also opposes gun registries, as I feel the notion of the government knowing who owns a firearm is Orwellian.

However, while I oppose all gun bans, I would not be opposed to expanding background checks if gun registries were not part of the proposed legislation. Naturally, I was ecstatic when I heard the Manchin-Toomey Background Checks bill was rejected by Congress. However, I soon changed my opinion when the Senate failed to pass this common-sense bill.

I, like many others, was misinformed by the bill’s opponents.  I thought the proposed measure would be a stepping stone to another gun ban. I, like many others opposed to the Manchin-Toomey bill, thought that this bill was similar to the bill proposed by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) which would ban assault weapons. Similarly, I thought the proposed measures would introduce a gun registry. On the contrary, the bill’s text specifically banned a gun registry and would have protected the American gun owners’ Second Amendment rights! When one learns more of the bill’s writers, one can understand why the bill is so respectful of gun rights. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) has an A rating from the NRA  and Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is a lifetime NRA member. In reality, what the bill would have done is expand background checks to firearms transactions at gun shows and on the internet.

As President Obama said in his response to the bill’s rejection, “It’s well known that … the American people support … background checks that make it harder for a dangerous person to buy a gun. We’re talking about convicted felons, people convicted of domestic violence, people with a severe mental illness. Ninety percent of Americans support that idea. Most Americans think that’s already the law.” While I knew this was not currently the law, I did not know this was what the bill was proposing. I blame my fellow conservatives for spreading half-truths about the bill in a concerted effort to increase opposition to the proposed legislation. One of the said propagators is former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. After the Manchin-Toomey bill was not passed, Governor Palin tweeted about a gun legislation “victory.” This registered Republican asks: Victory for whom?