Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) voted against legislation to expand background checks on gun sales in 2013, but in light of recent events, he appears to be changing his mind.
Speaking to reporters in the halls of the Senate on Thursday, Graham said, “I don’t know how you get around the idea that a man who was adjudicated mentally ill was denied a gun purchase when he went to a gun store, wound up buying a gun from a man who sells guns on the side, and there’s no background check.”
Graham simply replied, “Yes,” when reporters asked him if he “believes his position on Manchin-Toomey will change” because of that example, Breitbart reported.
Graham also supports so-called state “red flag” laws that would allow authorities to confiscate guns from someone who has been deemed “dangerous” to themselves or others.
The current Manchin-Toomey bill is an updated version of a failed 2013 bill put forward by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), with an assist from Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT). The bill would expand background check requirements to include gun show and internet sales.
President Donald Trump spoke at length on the topic with all three senators on Wednesday, Politico reported.
While Trump hasn’t committed to signing the bill if passed, he signaled an openness to consider it, the senators said.
Many Republicans in Congress — especially Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — have made it clear that they won’t move on any gun control bills until they know whether or not the president will sign it.
Reporters pressed Trump on Thursday about where he stood on the background check bill. “It depends on if Democrats want to take your guns away,” Trump said. “If this is a movement by the Democrats to take your guns away, it’s never going to happen.”
Though details remain sparse, by all accounts the current iteration of the Manchin-Toomey bill is not quite as far-reaching as the 2013 version that failed. It includes more exemptions for private sales without mandatory checks between family and friends and most likely wouldn’t be classified as the sort of “universal” background check legislation that Democrats have long demanded.
Instead, it is reportedly more narrowly tailored toward strengthening the existing background check system by filling in purported “loopholes” and by ensuring states fully report criminal and mental health records to the system (even for juveniles). The bill would also strengthen penalties for lying on forms or “straw purchases” for prohibited individuals.
It remains to be seen what the final draft of the current Manchin-Toomey bill will look like and whether the president will support it or not. But Republicans like Graham now appear more willing to vote in favor of expanding the current background check system.