The National Rifle Association fired off another round today in their continuing fight to oppose any and all gun legislation.
In an “open letter” to the US Senate, the NRA reinforced their opposition to universal background checks, including the “misguided” compromise measure reportedly drafted by Senators Joe Manchin, Pat Toomey and Chuck Schumer.
To quote NRA-ILA director and lobbyist Chris Cox:
This legislation would criminalize the private transfer of firearms by honest citizens, requiring friends, neighbors and many family members to get government permission to exercise a fundamental right or face prosecution.
The NRA is unequivocally opposed to S. 649.
The bipartisan agreement crafted by Manchin and Toomey — both rated as strong supporters of gun rights by the NRA — would require background checks for firearms purchases at gun shows as well as Internet sales.
Currently, federal law requiring background checks covers licensed firearms dealers, with private sales excluded. Six states (CA, CO, IL, NY, OR, RI) require universal background checks on all firearm sales at gun shows.
According to a fact sheet provided by Manchin and Toomey, the compromise measure closes the national “gun show loophole” while at the same time exempting temporary transfers and transfers between family members, friends, neighbors, and other individuals.
Many, including myself, question the “friends and family” exception.
Should they get a free pass? After all, do you actually know if your second cousin or a friend or that guy at work has a drug or drinking problem? Has a psychological issue? Is under a restraining order? Was previously convicted of a felony?
No, you don’t.
The NRA also insists that rather than focus its efforts on restricting the rights of America’s 100 million law-abiding gun owners, Congress needs to fix our broken mental health system; increase prosecutions of violent criminals; and make our schools safer.
As we have noted previously, expanding background checks, at gun shows or elsewhere, will not reduce violent crime or keep our kids safe in their schools.
U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) disagrees. “Criminal background checks are just common sense. If you pass a criminal background check, you can buy a gun. It’s the people who fail a criminal or mental health background check that we don’t want having guns.”
According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence website, nearly 2 million gun purchase applications had been denied since 1994. The most common disqualifier: felony convictions. Next were domestic violence misdemeanor convictions or restraining orders. A small percentage were denied due to mental health issues.
Two million may seem to be a small number when compared to the number of guns owned by American citizens, but it is not meaningless. How many lives were saved?
Toomey adds, “That can be done without infringing on law-abiding people’s gun rights. And we ought to do it.”
According to recent polls, more than 90 percent of Americans agree with Toomey, favoring some form of background check for all firearm purchases.
Whether gun reform legislation that expands background checks can pass the Senate is still an open question, but it appears now that the upper chamber will at least vote on the measure. At least 10 Republican senators have said they will not join a planned filibuster to prevent the bill from coming to the floor.
The NRA’s statement issued yet another threat to those lawmakers, claiming that “votes on all anti-gun amendments or proposals will be considered in NRA’s future candidate evaluations.”
But is the NRA arguing from a position of strength or weakness? The last paragraph reads:
We hope the Senate will replace the current provisions of S. 649 with language that is properly focused on addressing mental health inadequacies; prosecuting violent criminals; and keeping our kids safe in their schools. Should it fail to do so, the NRA will make an exception to our standard policy of not “scoring” procedural votes and strongly oppose a cloture motion to move to final passage of S. 649.
Translated, it appears that the NRA would prefer to squash the whole thing before it even comes to a vote that they could “evaluate”.
- NRA-ILA | Letter from NRA Institute for Legislative Action Executive Director Chris Cox to the United States Senate On Background Checks
- The Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act
Photo of NRA-ILA Executive Director and chief lobbyist, Chris Cox by Gage Sidemore. (CCL)