How Joe Biden's Gun Control Plan Compares to Joe Manchin's Views

President Joe Biden's plans for gun control reform are back in the spotlight as members of the House of Representatives are introducing two pieces of legislation that would make significant changes to firearms purchases.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is pushing forward a bill that would require background checks for all gun purchases. The same bill was staled in the Senate in 2019.

Majority Whip James Clyburn will reintroduce legislation to close the so-called "Charleston loophole" that permitted white supremacist Dylan Roof to buy a handgun at a time when he should have been unable to do so. He went on to kill nine people at a historically Black church.

Biden is in favor of major changes to the nation's gun laws and outlined detailed plans on his website during the 2020 presidential campaign.

Biden supports "universal background check legislation, requiring a background check for all gun sales with very limited exceptions, such as gifts between close family members."

The president also wants to "keep guns out of dangerous hands" through background checks and by closing "other loopholes that allow people who should be prohibited from purchasing firearms from making those purchases."

Biden's views are largely aligned with the two bills introduced last year that will now be debated again. However, the success of gun control legislation may depend on Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), a conservative Democrat who's become a key power broker in the evenly divided Senate.

Manchin's record on gun control measures is mixed but there is reason to think he could support the bills being reintroduced in the House.

When Manchin ran for the Senate in 2010 and 2012, he received an "A" rating from the National Rival Association (NRA) but following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012, Manchin proposed legislation that prompted the NRA to downgrade his rating to a "D" and campaign against him in 2018.

Manchin co-sponsored a bill with Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) that would have expanded background checks to include most private gun transactions, not just those involving a licensed dealer.

The bill failed in the Senate in 2013 but after another school shooting in Parkland, Florida in 2018, Manchin restated his support for the measures in his bill.

"It's not gun control, it's gun sense," Manchin told CBS News' Face the Nation at the time. "I'm very hopeful. President [Donald] Trump has said background checks [are] needed. This bill of ours, the Manchin-Toomey bill, should be the base bill they work off of."

The Manchin-Toomey bill was not enacted and as Politico explained, it was narrower in scope than 2019's H.R. 8—the background checks bill now being reintroduced.

The Manchin-Toomey bill also had exceptions for family members and would have created a database of people prohibited from owning firearms. Though Manchin's proposals were criticized as being too weak, the bill's aim was to close loopholes that allowed potentially dangerous people to get guns.

"The goal was to see if we can find a way to make it a little more difficult for the people who have no legal right to have a gun, for them to obtain one," Toomey said after the legislation's defeat.

"There is absolutely no way that this can be construed as an infringement on our Second Amendment rights," he said.

Biden is also in favor of banning the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high capacity magazines. Manchin has previously rejected suggestions that AR-15s could be banned.

"I don't have any friends that own the gun right now, I don't know anyone who's committed a crime with it so I wouldn't take their gun away," Manchin told MSNBC's Morning Joe in 2018.

However, the two bills coming before the House don't contain bans on assault weapons and their aims are broadly similar to Manchin's own legislation. There is common ground between Biden and Manchin on gun control issues and with Democrats having a slim majority in the Senate, moves to change the law could be more successful this time.

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) questions nominee for Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill January 27, 2021 in Washington, DC. Manchin's views on gun control may be key to passing new legislation on the issue. Leigh Vogel-Pool/Getty Images