What You Need to Know About the Toomey-Manchin Bill

NFRW Political Briefing


          This week the Senate debates the merits and demerits of the Toomey-Manchin bill, known as the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act of 2013, which concerns background checks on guns sales. The following are talking points about the bill: 


  • The bill expressly states on page 2 that the it “supports and reaffirms the existing prohibition on a national firearms registry.”
  • Senator Toomey has argued that the bill only expands background checks on private sales between individuals at gun shows and over the internet, but according to section 122, a background check must be done on a transfer “pursuant to an advertisement, posting, display, or other listing on the Internet or in a publication by the transferor of his intent to transfer or the transferee of his intent to acquire, the firearm.
  • Subtitle A authorizes $100,000,000 in grants to be appropriated to enhance the National Criminal History Records Improvement Program from fiscal year 2014 through fiscal year 2017.
  • The bill contains a severability clause, which means that if any amendment or provision in the bill is declared invalid in court, the rest of the bill will be unaffected.
  • According to section 117, the privacy rights contained in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) are waived, meaning that mental health records can be submitted to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System without having to abide by the privacy rights contained in HIPAA. The Gun Owners of America is particularly concerned about this measure, because they claim that under current law, 150,000 veterans have lost their right to own a gun on the basis of a psychiatrist’s diagnosis that they can’t handle their finances.
  • The bill expands the number of people who would have to fill out a 4473 form (a firearms transaction record) in order to transfer a firearm–this form has to be filled out when a firearm is purchased from a federal firearm license holder, like guns shops. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) copies the 4473 information and keeps the information in its records, so by expanding the requirement to fill out 4473’s the BATF’s database of gun owner information will be expanded. Toomey and Manchin claim they ban centralization of information in their bill, but this provision would seem to negate that claim. Additionally, current law already bans registries, so the prohibition against a national registry in this bill is redundant. So while it would be against the law for the Department of Justice to establish a registry with the expanded 4473 information, that could only be enforced if the DoJ chooses to prosecute itself, according to the Gun Owners Association.
  • The bill needs at least 5 Republican senators to pass provided that all 55 senators who caucus with the Democrats vote in favor of the bill. The bill currently has the public support of Republican Senators Toomey, Kirk, Collins, McCain.

To read the bill, click here.