The Senate is poised to vote on expanding background checks for firearm sales at gun shows and via the Internet. Let's assume that the unlikely compromise announced today by two backbenchers—Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania—will allow the Obama administration to get past a filibuster threat and have an up-or-down vote.
Since Democrats control 55 votes in the Senate, there would be a decent chance the background-check bill passes. Would that constitute a big victory for the White House? What happens next? And how much does any of this matter?
The short version: It's a political win notable for its modest scale. Next, the debate shifts to the Republican-controlled House, where gun-control provisions ordinarily go to die. And it's hard to say how much expanding background checks matters, because the crucial statistic undergirding the idea is so musty.