Moran explains vote on background checks to Baldwin City Rotary Club

Sen. Jerry Moran addresses the Baldwin City Rotary Club on Wednesday at the Harter Union on the Baker University campus. Moran addressed his vote to uphold the filibuster on the expansion of background checks for gun sales, regulatory effects on Kansas banks and the farm bill. Enlarge photo

May 1, 2013

Baldwin City — Sen. Jerry Moran defended his recent vote against federal legislation that would have made expanded background checks on gun purchases, saying on Wednesday that it wouldn’t have prevented criminals from getting guns and that the vote was consistent with his campaign position.

The state’s junior senator spoke to the weekly gathering of the Baldwin City Rotary Club. A club member himself, Moran made a last-minute addition to his schedule to address the club Wednesday.

The gun-control bill would have expanded the requirement for background checks to include all firearms sales at gun shows and over the Internet, but would have excluded sales between family and friends outside of commercial venues.

In a thread that ran throughout his remarks, Moran said he feared the bill would have added regulations for law-abiding citizens. He added that licensed merchants at gun shows already were required to do background checks.

Moran maintained the measure would have interfered with the transfer of firearms between friends and within families and would not prevent criminals from obtaining firearms. His concern was the only way to track those types of transfers and the expanded background checks would be through a national registry.

“I have no problem with anyone who is in the business of selling firearms having to do a background check on whomever they sell to,” he said. “The question is, how do you get to the dad handing the gun off to the son, which is not what we’re after.”

A greater emphasis on mental health on the state and federal levels would be a more effective approach to preventing incidents like the Newtown, Conn., elementary school killings, Moran said. He served in the Kansas Legislature when the state closed mental hospitals in 1990 with the promise that money saved would be used for community-based programs, he said. Those programs have been “woefully underfunded,” the senator said.

“You always want to solve a problem, and it’s difficult to solve,” he said. “You received a letter and the parent says ‘I know my son has mental health issues, but I can’t find anybody to help solve the problem.’ Those are the people who, in my view, we have to figure out through mental health programs how we treat.”

Moran said he also was concerned how regulations created to check Wall Street financial institutions after the 2008 financial crisis were stifling community banks in Kansas from making home and business loans that would benefit the local economy.

His approach is to require nominees for regulatory positions to meet with Kansas bankers and give those bankers a chance to make their concerns known in Washington, D.C., without fear of retribution, Moran said.

“We are trying to get a different regulatory environment,” he said. “We are trying to bring in people who have a different attitude and approach.”

In response to a question about the farm bill, Moran said the Senate passed a five-year extension to the bill last year but the House didn’t act. The bill would reduce the amount of direct payments to farmers, which would reduce farm bill spending by $23 billion, but would keep in place crop insurance provisions, he said.

“What we are trying to do is, that while farmers give up that aspect of the farm bill, that there is recognition and support and financial resources put in place so that we can better manage the risks,” he said.

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