NRA paints itself into a corner on background checks

February 28, 2013

[Although gun enthusiasts have tried to distract with dead-threading comments, I found something worth writing about today, as Mark Kelly has spoken out in favor of background checks — and against NRA mythology.]

Mark Kelly has a new op-ed on Politico, about the ‘gun show’ loophole and universal background checks. In it, he makes a fairly inflammatory remark about the NRA, that they’re fighting the background check proposal on behalf of criminals.

But it’s clear that for reasons of their own, the NRA leadership has decided to dig in and — against all evidence and common sense — preserve a system that makes it easier for criminals to get guns.

Hey, I’m impressed with the plain speaking. But this could also use a little bit of investigation.


Looking for evidence of the NRA’s opposition to the universal background check isn’t hard to find, at least. Wayne LaPierre has been quite forthcoming in that regard, spinning tales of conspiracy theories and ginning up fear.

“This so-called universal background check that you’re hearing about all over the media … is aimed at one thing: It’s aimed at registering your guns,” LaPierre claimed. “And when another tragic opportunity presents itself, that registry will be used to confiscate your guns.”

I’d heard about that panic attack a few days ago, sure. But in his op-ed piece, Mark Kelly fires back…with data, not conspiracy.

Criminals and the mentally ill do submit to background checks — and any effort to convince you otherwise is flat out wrong. We know roughly 1.7 million criminals and mentally ill people have been stopped from buying a gun by a background check since 1999. What we don’t know is how many of them got a gun anyway at a gun show or different private sale.

So, this is the system that we could use nationwide, that’s already stopped well over a million gun purchases…well, maybe that’s the problem, somebody’s standing in the way between gun manufacturers and their profits. And, as I see helpfully reported by the NRA, even as the measure may be picking up steam in the Senate, House Republicans are beginning to line up their expected opposition there. Like the House Judiciary chairman, Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).

But Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast with media that such a requirement could unnecessarily inconvenience law-abiding citizens and lead to the creation of a national gun registry — something Goodlatte and many other Republicans oppose.

“It’s not a very practical thing to do and you’ll have a lot of inconvenience to law-abiding citizens at the same time you’re not going to keep many weapons out of the hands of people who are misusing them,” Goodlatte said. “I think there are better ways.”

And there’s the NRA talking point about about a gun registry. Yep, Bob Goodlatte, who received $56,250 in NRA blood money, an “A” rating, and the NRA’s endorsement. What a surprise that he would be such a skilled mimic of Wayne LaPierre! Or that Republicans would put a fox in charge of the henhouse.

Incidentally, Mark Kelly debunks this myth that the NRA is peddling about background checking leading to gun registration.

An extension of the current background check system cannot by law or by practice result in a registry of guns or gun owners. Such a registry is against the law, and the federal government does not even collect the records that would constitute a registry.

What law, I wondered? Well, the net is vast and infinite, and gave me some answers. The Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 contains the prohibition, which is why today, Senators are trying to figure out some record-keeping method that will keep it out of any federal agency. Oh, but there’s more. As might be expected, the NRA waxes poetic about “the law that saved gun rights“. It’s the work of Rep. Harold Volkmer, D-MO and Sen. James McClure, R-ID. And this is especially rich — in the House, they used a discharge petition to get it through.

Rep. Volkmer knew that under the House rules there was one way around a committee chairman who bottled up a bill: a discharge petition. A successful petition would discharge the committee from considering the bill and bring it up for a vote. To succeed under the rules as they stood then, a discharge petition had to be signed by a majority of the entire House, 218 members. The names of those who had already signed were known to the House leadership, which could therefore pressure and intimidate them, but kept secret from anyone else.

I bet Tip O’Neill was mad. But yes, the same maneuver by which Nancy Pelosi broke the fiscal cliff impasse late last year. The more things change, I suppose.

Anyway, this is how the mighty NRA has fallen. They’re now in the precarious position of denying the existence of the law they pushed through — forbidding the federal government from establishing a gun registry — in order to sell their message of conspiracy and paranoia to their membership and to the country.

For my part, I am for establishing a gun registry at the federal level. But that will require more than just some new background check law. The NRA can ignore their baby, FOPA, the law that they said “saved gun rights.” But the feds can’t ignore it. It still exists in the reality-based community, and repealing that provision from FOPA is not on the table. It will have to wait for another day; it may never happen at the federal level. This doesn’t stop individual states from setting up their own, and some have, and more would be better.

But the NRA is lying about registration. And in fighting for the status quo, they are fighting to keep it easy for criminals to acquire guns. Enough about the vaunted black market. 1.7 million and counting on the folks who tried and failed to go through the existing background check system; criminals, some dangerously mentally ill, what few are reported by the states.

And who knows how many millions opting for the easy loophole on private sales. Why should gun enthusiasts want it to be so easy for criminals to get guns? The fact is, they don’t — Mark Kelly’s op-ed mentions that 74% of NRA members support background checks. So, this isn’t even a matter of the NRA vs. the country or Republicans vs. Democrats. This is the NRA leadership against everyone else.

Even the majority of NRA members, it seems, are with us. Demand a vote on universal background checks.


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