GOP senator says background check proposal has a better chance of passing than ever before
US Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) (Photo: Facebook)

On Monday, Politico reported that Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) is confident that the Senate is in a better position than it has been in years to advance an expansion of background checks for gun sales.

"Fundamentally, [it's] a difficult task," said Toomey. "That being said, the chances are looking better than they have ever looked at any time, certainly, since Sen. Manchin and I first pushed for Manchin-Toomey back in 2013."

Toomey's statement is at odds with reports that President Donald Trump recently assured National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre on a private phone call that expanded background checks are "off the table." White House officials dispute these reports, saying Trump has not committed against anything.

In most respects, Toomey, a member of the NRA, sticks to the Republican line on gun rights, arguing that assault weapons are too "popular" to regulate. However, on the issue of background checks, he has been one of the GOP's only advocates for reform.

The amendment he introduced with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) in 2013 was a painstakingly crafted compromise that expanded gun rights almost as much as it restricted them — it would have repealed a federal prohibition on selling handguns over state lines, made it harder to sue unlicensed gun sellers who arm criminals, and enshrined a ban on creating a national gun registry in federal law forever. But it also would have vastly reduced loopholes in the federal background check system, requiring any gun purchase online or at a gun show to clear it even if the seller is not a licensed dealer — although private sales between family members would still be exempt.

Even this compromise was too much for the NRA, which successfully lobbied to defeat the legislation in 2013. But similar proposals have periodically come up in the wake of particularly devastating mass shootings, and Senate Republicans have said they will debate the issue after they return from the summer recess.