Senators say balance is key in bipartisan gun bill

Manchin and Toomey are not exactly household names across America, but they may have done what once seemed impossible: break the dead lock on gun control leg.

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Republican Sen. Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania struck a deal that would expand background checks to all commercial gun sales, including gun shows and internet sales, but not private sales among family and friends.

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The bill would also increase funding for school security and make gun-trafficking a federal crime.

A plan to expand background checks was all but dead, until Sen. Toomey stepped forward to negotiate with Manchin.

Joe Manchin, Pat Toomey
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. listens at left, as Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa. announce that they have reached a bipartisan deal on expanding background checks to more gun buyers, Wednesday, April 10, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Toomey isn't known for being out front on gun issues - he's more of a debt and budget guy. But he told CBS News that he had to get involved.

"First of all, it seemed pretty clear to me that some kind of gun legislation was going be on the Senate floor. I was concerned that it could be legislation that I just couldn't support," he said. "And it's long occurred to me that a perfectly reasonable place to end up where both sides ought to be able to agree is to just make it a little harder for criminals and dangerous, mentally ill people to obtain weapons."

Both Toomey and Manchin are gun owners and have "A" ratings from the National Rifle Association.

Their plan gives a bipartisan boost to the gun safety bill that senators will begin debating tomorrow. The bill hikes punishments for gun trafficking and provides more funding for school safety.

The plan still leaves a lot of gaps. If someone want to sell a gun to their neighbor, they still wouldn't need to fill out a background check.

"I think it's about striking a reasonable balance here, and weighing the advantages you get from a background check with the inconvenience you impose on law abiding citizens," Toomey said. "If I want give a gun to my brother, or sell a gun to my brother, I don't think you should have to do a background check on that."

The two senators met with families of eight Newtown victims Wednesday who thanked them for their courage.

Manchin said in this entire process, they are the most courageous ones.

"I'm a parent. I just -- I can't imagine it." Manchin told the families.

With the filibuster threat dissipating, the first vote to move to debate the bill is Thursday. Then, senators will have a chance to offer amendments, and this will be one of them.

Even if this bill passes in the senate, it faces a much more uncertain future in the House of Representatives, which is controlled by Republicans. House Speaker John Boehner was asked Wednesday if he would even allow a vote on expanding background checks, and all he said is "We'll review it."

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    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.


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