SEN. Joe Manchin seized headlines Thursday by joining with Republican Sen. Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania to announce an agreement that would require more gun purchasers to undergo background checks.
Their proposal would extend background checks to online sales, but not to sales or trades between friends, neighbors or co-workers. It would penalize states that fail to submit information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System in a timely manner.
As gun control measures go, it is on the less threatening end of the continuum. "Progressive" Democrats have not been able to marshal enough support in their Senate for more intrusive measures that pose a greater threat to the American people's Second Amendment rights.
But the Manchin-Toomey measure opens the door to discussion of other proposals in the Senate, and that's where things will get trickier.
The rights are in the details.
Still, it was good to see Manchin, who has heretofore not made much of a mark in the Senate, become the man of the hour. Liberals like President Obama, Sen. Chuck Schumer and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg praised him to the heavens.
Conservatives kept their powder dry.
The National Rifle Association said Manchin's legislative product would not actually accomplish much.
"Expanding background checks at gun shows will not prevent the next shooting, will not solve violent crime, and will not keep our kids safe in schools," it said.
True. It makes for great political theater, but heavily regulating the law-abiding only sounds good. It has little effect on the criminal element or on mentally ill subjects bent on mass killings.
Second District Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, an announced candidate for the Senate seat in 2014, reacted to Manchin's announcement by pointing out that "we have existing laws on the books that aren't being enforced, and punishing law-abiding citizens or creating ineffective laws is not the answer."
Many West Virginians agree with her.
And will watch to see where Manchin's proposal leads.