Senate Republicans are preparing a substitute to the background check legislation crafted by Sens. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) and Joe Manchin (D., W.V.), the Washington Free Beacon has learned.
The Democrat-controlled Senate is set to begin consideration of the Manchin/Toomey amendment Thursday, but a group of GOP senators has quietly drafted a replacement amendment, titled the "Protecting Communities and Preserving the Second Amendment Act of 2013."
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Sens. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), Ted Cruz (R., Texas), Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), John Thune (R., S.D.), Kelly Ayotte (R., N.H.), and John Hoeven (R., N.D.) are sponsoring the bill.
Senators have been tight-lipped about the bill, but according to a fact-sheet obtained by the Free Beacon it would "reauthorize and improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, increase resources for prosecutions of gun crime, address mental illness in the criminal justice system, and strengthen criminal law by including straw purchasing and illegal firearm trafficking statutes."
The bill would establish a high-level federal task force to increase prosecution of gun violence in the country. It would also create a nationwide version of Project Exile, which shifts prosecution of gun crimes from state to federal courts.
Additionally, the act would "reauthorize and improve" the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Federal courts would be required to submit relevant information to NICS, and it would "ensure relevant mental health records" are submitted by states.
The bill would also call for the study of mass shootings and limit the Justice Department’s ability to conduct gun trafficking stings like "Operation Fast and Furious."
"Sen. Grassley, with Sen. Cruz, is considering an alternative that emphasizes support for the Second Amendment and might include fixing the NICS system, providing resources to help address mental health and school safety, protecting veterans from false health determinations and addressing gun trafficking and straw purchasing," a spokeswoman for Grassley told the Free Beacon.
The Manchin/Toomey legislation is widely considered Senate Democrats’ best hope of passing some form of gun control legislation, but it has yet to garner the 60 votes needed to end debate. Several Democratic senators from red states are still on the fence.
Senate Republicans are also preparing a series of amendments to be offered on Thursday to the Democratic gun bill, including legislation on concealed carry, gun trafficking, and mental health funding.
Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) is planning to introduce a concealed carry reciprocity amendment, his office told the Free Beacon.
Cornyn’s amendment would allow individuals with conceal carry privileges in their own state to conceal carry across state lines into other states that also permit it. Only Illinois and the District of Columbia completely outlaw concealed carry.
Cruz introduced two amendments Monday cracking down on straw purchases and gun trafficking. One of Cruz’s amendments would create a task force for prosecuting felons or fugitives who try to get guns illegally. The other amendment would prevent firearms straw purchasing and trafficking.
Cruz’s bills have attracted 10 cosponsors from the Senate’s conservative wing, including Sens. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), Rand Paul (R., Ky.), and Mike Lee (R., Utah).
Additionally, a senior GOP aide said anti-gun trafficking language that recently passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee would likely be replaced out of concerns that it was overbroad.
Exactly which amendments will receive a vote is not clear. The GOP aide said there has so far been no deal between Republicans and Democrats on a unanimous consent agreement limiting Thursday’s proceedings to a set list of amendments.
The bill has been shopped around to Second Amendment groups to garner support. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) urged its members to contact their representatives in support of the bill on Tuesday.
"This positive measure would help Fix NICS and improve current law, without expanding background checks that punishing retailers and infringe on the Second Amendment," the NSSF said.
"Your senators need to hear from you in support of the real solutions in the Grassley measure."