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The background check deal: Weak threat

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

It's not the apostasy that some conservatives are making it out to be. Neither is it the sea change that some liberals claim it to be.

So what actually is the deal announced Wednesday by Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., two ardent gun-rights supporters, for expanded background checks on gun purchases? Not much for those liberals but more than conservatives might be ready to concede.

The deal, if approved, would require criminal background checks for all gun show and Internet sales. Private sales outside those arenas (including among family members) would continue to be background-check free.

But the reality is that the newly covered sales are a quite small proportion of total sales, most of which already are background checked. To wit, only about 4 percent of all gun sales come at gun shows — and most of those are through federally licensed dealers, who already must run background checks. And fewer than a quarter of such sales — 0.7 percent by one government count — involved any illegality.

More importantly, the Toomey-Manchin deal effectively kills “universal background checks” and proscribes any national gun registry, each quite fraught with privacy peril.

While the plan likely will do nothing to stem the kind of mass shootings out of which it was born — that it somehow would long has been a rubric of gun-grabbers — it's not a threat to the Second Amendment.

In fact, when additional provisions are considered — such as liberalized transport and interstate handgun sales rules and allowing those with concealed-carry permits (who've already undergone a rigorous review) to bypass background checks — the Toomey-Manchin proposal stands to streamline, not hinder, Americans' practice of their Second Amendment rights.

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