Las Vegas Sun

July 4, 2015

Currently: 102° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Gun control:

Heller’s no on background-checks bill may jeopardize gun control compromise


Steve Marcus

Senator Dean Heller listens to speakers during a dedication ceremony for the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System Las Vegas Medical Center (VASNHS) in North Las Vegas Monday, August 6, 2012.

Nevada Sen. Dean Heller will vote against the Manchin-Toomey amendment on gun control, his office announced Tuesday afternoon.

The announcement potentially seriously complicates Sen. Harry Reid’s efforts to get 60 senators to vote for what many have surmised is the best chance the Senate has to approve expanded background checks, an idea recent polls show has wide support — almost 90 percent — in the general populace.

“I believe very strongly that our current background check system needs strengthening and improving, particularly in areas that could keep guns out of the hands of felons and the mentally ill,” Heller said in his announcement. “At the same time, I cannot support legislation that infringes upon the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”

Last week, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania struck a deal that would require background checks for all public sales of guns, but exempt private sales between friends and acquaintances. The change would close loopholes in the background checks law, such as that that exists for gun shows, where gun purchasers are not subjected to background checks before they are allowed to purchase firearms.

The compromise seemed to have a better chance of securing votes than the underlying Senate bill, which would have required background checks for inter-family firearm sales as well. Several Democrats — including Manchin — had said they could not vote for the underlying bill, absent the Manchin-Toomey amendment.

Heller voted last week to bring gun control up for a debate. But he stayed mum on whether he would support the key compromise on background checks, repeating that he believed background checks needed to be strengthened, but that he could not in good conscience support a bill that might lead to the creation of a national gun control registry.

On Tuesday, Heller decided the Manchin-Toomey compromise did not pass muster, despite its authors’ assurances that there would be severe penalties for anyone who tried to use data collected from background checks to cobble together anything resembling a gun registry.

“Despite the good faith efforts of Senators Manchin and Toomey, the onerus paperwork and expansion of federal power mandates in this legislation are too great of a concern,” Heller said in the statement. “I believe that this legislation could lead to the creation of a national gun registry and puts additional burdens on law-abiding citizens. For those reasons, I cannot vote for this legislation.”

With Heller out, Reid has very few options left to secure the requisite 60 votes to pass the Manchin-Toomey amendment.

Already, 11 of the 16 Republicans who voted to take up the gun debate in a 68-31 vote last week have said they will not vote for the Manchin-Toomey amendment. That figure includes Heller.

Only three of those 16 have pledged to vote for Manchin-Toomey, and two are undecided.

On the Democratic side of the aisle, no senators have yet said they will vote against the compromise amendment. But there are five Democratic senators who have not yet decided how they will vote.

There are currently 55 Democrats (or Democrat-leaning Independents) in the Senate. That means that in order to pass the Manchin-Toomey amendment, Reid would need all the undecided senators — Democrats and Republicans — to vote for the legislation. In addition, 89-year-old Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, who has missed the last few weeks of work due to reported physical ailments related to earlier cancer treatments, would have to return to Washington in time to cast a vote for the legislation.

Minutes before Heller announced he would not support the gun compromise, he had been in a meeting with the Nevada congressional delegation in the Capitol. In that meeting, Reid seemed optimistic about the progress on the gun bill.

“As I’m sure you know, we’re looking forward — I’m hoping to do a consent agreement tonight to start moving this forward,” Reid told reporters after the lawmakers’ discussions. “I think we’re there to start the debate.”

“Clearly Sen. Reid and I agree there needs to be a discussion on this, and that’s going to happen, so I think that’s positive,” Heller said after him.

Heller’s announcement, made via press release, came just minutes after that meeting disbanded. It was not immediately clear if he told Reid he would not support the amendment while they were together in the room.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 7 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. What is very clear is the Dean Heller's family have never experienced lead poisoning, an environmental disorder. Better to have more Newtowns than Background checks. How terrible it would be to expose all those felons who wanted to buy guns with background checks, how un-American! Dean knows and lives what is right with the Lord, he teaches Sunday school.

    We all know how much the felons support America gun Freedom and the ability to buy guns without background checks - it would be tragic to disenfranchise our greatest Patriots. Good voting Dean, I'm certain that a lot of drug money will be donated to your Church for forgiveness sake.

  2. Comment removed by moderator. Inappropriate

  3. As I posted previously,if you buy a hunting license they already know that you own a gun..

  4. "...Heller said in his announcement. 'At the same time, I cannot support legislation that infringes upon the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.'"

    That portion of his comment reads as if it came straight out of a NRA lobbyist handbook.

    Poll after poll of people throughout the United States support universal background checks legislation. Some as high as ninety-one percent.

    Heller is paid off by the NRA. They tell him what to do. Bought and sold. Heller is in their pocket to do whatever they want.

    Heller simply does not represent the good people of Nevada. Only himself and his political longevity.

    When we get a politician in office that does only for himself and his stupid political party, then there is REALLY something wrong. Heller is not representing Nevada. He's representing the NRA and their precious pro-gun manufacturers they run interference for. Heller is bought and paid for to make sure that gun show loophole stays intact here in Nevada. You're a criminal? You want to buy a gun? Come to Nevada and buy it a gun show. Anytime. It's okay. Heller and his goons at the NRA say it's okay. Because money is way more important than doing what is right.


    I will do everything in my power to rid Nevada of this political predator.

  5. Considering enforcement of background checks will be about as effective as border security, why bother? Who's gonna pay for it? We need a national database of guns by serial number, make, model, dates of ownership. When we (law enforcement) can trace each gun back we can find ways to control trafficking. Illegals are not supposed to have guns but guess what? We also NEED A PROVISION where law enforcement can red-flag anyone who has "lost" or sold a firearm that is used in a crime--so that additional guns will not follow the same flow into the hands of criminals or hands of the young.

  6. It's hypocritical to require identification to vote and not to buy guns. I'm all for guns, but as Roslenda said the only way to get illegal guns off the streets is to have a database. 1% of gun sellers provide the majority of illegal weapons in America. Worried about the Federal government knowing you have a gun? Where were you when they passed the Patriot Act and stripped you of all your rights in the name of national security?

  7. "Worried about the Federal government knowing you have a gun? Where were you when they passed the Patriot Act and stripped you of all your rights in the name of national security?"
    Good questions for conservatives to answer Jerry! My guess is that the scary black man wasn't in the White House so they thought it was all peachy keen because Bush would NEVER EVER consider trampling on their white guy rights.