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Please begin with an informative title:

a diary dedicated to the inimitable Lillith Gardener

Who was not devastated by the occurrence at Sandy Hook Elementary?

Our nation (including many "pro-rights" characters) reacted with shock and sadness, and it seemed to many that (at last) the entire nation "got it" about the easy accessibility of firearms. With the horror of so many innocent lives lost, change seemed imminent, as if something fundamental had budged. Our Chief Executive spoke for many in promising effective action.

"In the coming weeks I'll use whatever power this office holds...aimed at preventing more tragedies like this."
So it was with great hope the following spring  that two U.S. Senators, Manchin and Toomey, both standing on platforms respectful of the Second Amendment (and each carrying "A" ratings from the NRA), worked with a major gun-rights lobbyist, NRA counsel Brian Judy, to craft legislation to improve  background checks. Here's Manchin speaking admirably Dec. 17, just after the tragedy:
"it's time to move beyond rhetoric. We need to sit down and have a common-sense discussion and move in a reasonable way...Everything has to be on the table."
This diary is an attempt to see what happened behind the scenes around April of 2012 with the Manchin-Toomey bill. Please excuse the length. Further insight, corrections, and more details are welcomed. I simply state the facts I have discovered: feel free to help me in your comments to make further sense of these events.

You must enter an Intro for your Diary Entry between 300 and 1150 characters long (that's approximately 50-175 words without any html or formatting markup).

Alan Gottlieb is the much-interviewed founder of the Second Amendment Foundation and the Concerned Citizens for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA). We might call him the gentleman in the bow tie. His local newspaper, the Seattle Times, revealed around Feb. 20 2013 that Gottlieb was providing input to the drafting of the Manchin-Toomey legislation. Like the unfortunate Guns & Ammo writer Dick Metcalf, he met strong criticism, but unlike Metcalf he was able to defend his input.

        “First you should know that I do not support Washington House Bill 1588 as it is currently written. My support for a state universal background check bill must include a substantial victory for gun owners that includes, but is not limited to repealing, prohibiting and destroying the current state handgun registration system and the data base of several million records of gun owners and their firearms that include the type of handguns and the serial numbers.

        “This would be a huge victory for our gun rights. We would be the first state to repeal a gun registration system. Think about that and what it means for your privacy as a gun owner and the fact that we all know historically that registration leads to confiscation.

        “In addition, if you have a carry permit you will be exempt from additional background checks. No checks would be required for transfers between family members. If you are a member of an organization like the Washington Arms Collectors that does a background check for membership, you would be exempt from additional checks to buy a firearm at their gun shows.

        “There are other inclusions that must be made as well that are good for our rights and freedom that need to be in a final bill to have my support. My guess is that the gun grabbers will not go along with these provisions and kill the bill. If they do the “blood” so to speak is on their hands, not ours.

        “There are other smart, tactical, political and morally justified reasons why I have taken this position that I do not want to make public at this time. We do have enemies and I am not going to telegraph our strategy to them by spelling out our battle plans.

        “I enjoy winning our freedoms more than the fight. I wish I can say that about some of my critics who have pre-judged without knowledge what it is that I am doing. Anyone who knows me knows that for the past forty years my efforts have expanded and protected our right to keep and bear arms from local city councils all the way to the United States Supreme Court.”

        Alan Gottlieb


Gottlieb was correct that gun lovers had reason to be pleased with the compromise legislation. Here's a summary of the concessions of Manchin-Toomey, as of Apr. 2013.

    • It exempted many sales from background checks; 
    • Left open a gun-show loophole;
    • Exempted background checks in some rural areas;
    • Exempted background checks for concealed-carry permit holders; 
    • Reduced the time the FBI has to block a sale;
    • Allowed the interstate sale of handguns;
    • Weakened laws that restrict transporting guns across state lines;
    • Expanded legal immunity to private sellers;
    • Made a national gun registry even less likely than before;
    • Expanded gun rights for veterans in questionable condition.

"Just another compromise on a road to ultimate defeat."
April 11, Mother Jones

Gun lovers had objections. Such as Michael Hammond of the Gunowners of America. For any present who are unaware of his work, there's this:

    We were the only ones post Columbine who took the position that there should be no gun control of any kind. The National Rifle Association was supporting 90 percent of Clinton’s gun-control legislation. We opposed them and killed a lot of those provisions with the help
of House Republican Tom Delay. I drafted the Smith Amendment when Clinton tried to impose a tax on Brady Checks and tried to keep Brady Check records indefinitely... I drafted the Smith Amendment which said you cannot impose tax on Brady checks. That has been carried into law since under the auspices of Senator Smith and congressman Tiarcht. We were also the group that championed the Armed Pilot Legislation, which trains pilots to keep guns in cockpit.
On April 11, Hammond  listed ten problems with the "sellout"
"So, now that we are on the verge of winning, why, in heaven’s name, would Pat Toomey try to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory, hand a “win” to Barack Obama so he can credibly say he “broke the back of the gun lobby,” invigorate fundraising for anti-gun groups in 2014, let red state Democrats who are up in 2014 off the hook, and create a platform for unending gun control demands that will resume the day his bill is signed into law?...
 "So are you still so enthusiastic about throwing 20,000,000 gun owners in prison for ten years for smoking pot -- not to mention the thousands upon thousands of military veterans who have also been thrown into the NICS system without any due process whatsoever?...
 "Under 922(g)(4), he could demand Medicaid, Medicare, and IDEA records of persons with PTSD, ADHD, and post partem depression...
 "Thus, since the HIPAA privacy regulations are being waived by Toomey-Schumer-Manchin, it’s probably not much of an overstatement to say that, under Toomey-Schumer-Manchin, “see a shrink; lose your guns.”...
 "If you ever talked about the gun on the Internet, you have arguably lost your right to make a private firearm transfer.
 "... any limitations on federal action built into federal gun law by McClure-Volkmer or any other pro-gun legislation automatically disappear as impediments to Eric Holder in implementing the massively expanded background checks... 

[...] "If  it passes in the Senate we would kill it in House! If anything the passage of this legislation would be a huge defeat for us and the NRA and others in the gun rights movement."

On April 12th, NRA attorney Chris Cox, NRA-ILA Executive Director, denied an NBC report that the NRA supported the bill with only one caveat.
An article appearing today on NBCNews.com is falsely reporting that NRA will not oppose legislation being negotiated in the U.S. Senate that would mandate background checks for all gun purchasers.

The story posted on NBCNews.com alleges that NRA will not oppose expanding the background check system to include all private firearm sales, "provided the legislation does not require private gun sellers to maintain records of the checks".  This statement is completely untrue.  The NRA opposes criminalizing private firearms transfers between law-abiding individuals, and therefore opposes an expansion of the background check system.  

The NRA supports meaningful efforts to address the problems of violent crime and mass violence in America, through swift and certain prosecution of violent criminals; securing our schools; and fixing our broken mental health system.

On April 12 our bow-tied buddy was giddy about his accomplishment. Sorry, this source is The Truth About Guns:
You might have to wait for Monday to read about it in the Wall Street Journal but you can read about it here right now. An influential gun rights advocate actually helped write the Background Check Bill coming up before the Senate this coming week.
“There’s a Million other checks in there it’s a Christmas Tree,” bragged Gottlieb, “We just hung a Million Ornaments on it.”
Gottlieb's CCRKBA was interviewed by the Washington Post April 14:
“’We decided to back it because we believe it is the right thing to do,’ said Julianne Versnel, director of operations for the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, which counts 650,000 members and supporters among its ranks. In explaining the decision, Versnel cited the value of a strong background check system for most gun sales and provisions that would prohibit establishment of a gun owner registry by the federal government.” In addition to enabling a vote that “does something” about handgun violence, the amendment also includes, in Alan Gottlieb’s words, “interstate sales of handguns, veteran gun rights restoration, travel with firearms protection, civil and criminal immunity lawsuit protection, and most important of all, the guarantee that people, including federal officers, will go to federal prison for up to 15 years if they attempt to use any gun sales records to set up a gun registry.”
From TTAG again, April 14: the CCRKBA  announced its support.
Gun Rights Group: ‘Gun Grabbers Have Stepped Into Our Trap’
“If you read the bill, you can see all the advances for our cause that it contains like -------interstate sales of handguns,
--veteran gun rights restoration,
--travel with firearms protection,
--civil and criminal immunity lawsuit protection if you sell a gun plus more,”
Gottlieb said in his statement. “It also exempts the sale or transfer of firearms between family members and friends as well as sales outside a commercial venue from a background check. If you have any kind of current state permit to own, use or carry, no check is done, just the Form 4473 to stay with a dealer.”
The following day, April 15, a few wheels came off the vehicle. David Koppel, Policy Analyst for the Cato Institute, called the bill "actually a bonanza for gun control." This link, for the legally minded, is a particularly good read. In spite of myriad concessions, he blasts just about all the bill's content (even citing lack of potty breaks while driving under the proposed law), and seems to raise the bar for any common-sense agreement.
1. The provision which claims to outlaw national gun registration in fact authorizes a national gun registry.

2. The provision which is supposed to strengthen existing federal law protecting the interstate transportation of personal firearms in fact cripples that protection.

[...] There are fairly small number of attorneys with serious expertise on federal firearms laws. Senator Charles Schumer, who works closely with Michael Bloomberg’s lobby, is likely to have had the full legal resources of that very well-funded organization. Conversely, based on off-the-record inquiry, I have not found any indication that Senator Toomey had any specialist expertise on his own side.

Two days later, and three days before the vote, the NRA weighed in with a rejection. Here's the reason given:
The Manchin-Toomey amendment "would have criminalized certain private transfers of firearms between honest citizens, requiring lifelong friends, neighbors and some family members" to get government approval.
National Rifle Association, Wednesday, April 17th, 2013.
On the same day (again, three days before the vote), Gottlieb publicly withdrew his support.
Which won’t be trumpeted near as much as their earlier support for the measure, something the groups’ leadership assured everyone was a real boon for gun wonders — and in fact, was a huge ass-kicking moment for Mr Toomey.
Turns out Schumer was laying in wait and stripped out the pro-gun provisions at the last moment. Whoops!
To paraphrase Eric Stratton, you fucked up. You trusted them!
- See more at: http://proteinwisdom.com/...
    The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms has withdrawn its support for the Manchin-Toomey alternative background check measure because a key amendment for restoration of firearms rights is not being considered. Our support for this measure was contingent on several key provisions, the cornerstone of which was a rights restoration provision that is not on the schedule for consideration. This is not a reflection against Senators Joe Manchin or Pat Toomey, who are staunch Second Amendment advocates.

[...] it appears the Democratic leadership in the Senate was opposed to letting this important consideration come up for a vote. We told everyone including a number of senators, that while there are many pro-gun rights provisions added to the main body of the bill, our support was contingent on this additional amendment coming to the floor. When we say something, we mean it. Rights restoration has been withheld from American citizens for more than two decades, ever since Sen. Charles Schumer – when he was still in the House of Representatives – successfully strong-armed a provision to withdraw funding for rights restoration investigations by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Senators Manchin and Toomey are not to blame for this, as they have been negotiating in good faith throughout this process. But Schumer and other anti-gun Democrats are continuing their campaign of demagoguery in order to permanently disqualify as many Americans as possible from being able to exercise their fundamental rights under the Second Amendment. [...] If the Manchin-Toomey alternative now goes down to defeat, Democrats in the Senate, led by Harry Reid, have only themselves to blame. While the Manchin-Toomey alternative has a significant number of gains for gun owners, it will not include this key provision, upon which our support was dependent. We cannot, in clear conscience, continue to support a measure that will not include this critical relief component. If Democrats like Schumer thought we could be flim flammed on this, they were wrong.

It might be noted here that Mr. Gottlieb has a personal investment in "rights restoration." He is a tax felon who owns sixty firearms. In a future diary I plan to cover The Dirty Leadership of the Gun Lobby, but I digress...

April 17th, 2013, was a busy day. The POTUS weighed in:

    A bipartisan background check amendment "outlawed any (gun) registry.  Plain and simple, right there in the text."
Barack Obama, Wednesday, April 17th, 2013
Three days later the bill failed. If others have any details on the collapse of the NRA's support, they are most welcome to share them as comments.
"Instead of supporting this compromise, the gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill...They claimed that it would create some sort of 'Big Brother' gun registry, even though the bill did the opposite." President Obama
But a curious post-script was added from an unexpected source: the person who, according to a straight-shooting hero of mine named Tom Diaz, spent six years laying the foundation for the Heller decision with non-peer reviewed "scholarship" done by paid law students. Here's Mr. Robert Levy, the Chairman of the Board of the Cato Institute, giving unequivocal support:
A Libertarian Case for Expanding Gun Background Checks
Published: April 26, 2013

LAST week, senators blocked a compromise measure that would have compelled unlicensed sellers at gun shows and online gun sellers to conduct background checks, despite polls that showed that 90 percent of the public supported the idea.
I’m a libertarian who played a role in reducing handgun restrictions in the nation’s capital. In 2008, in a landmark case I helped initiate, Heller v. District of Columbia, the Supreme Court declared for the first time that the Second Amendment protected an individual’s right to bear arms.
But the stonewalling of the background check proposal was a mistake, both politically and substantively. Following a series of tragic mass shootings, public opinion is overwhelmingly in favor of reasonable legislation restricting the ownership of guns by people who shouldn’t have them. There was also plenty in the proposal that gun-rights proponents like me could embrace.
The compromise — carefully negotiated by two moderate gun-rights supporters, Senators Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, and Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania — should be reintroduced in the Senate. I am convinced that, with some modifications, it could still be passed, because it would add reasonable protections for both gun owners and sellers.
Gun-rights advocates should use this interval to refine their priorities and support this measure, with a few modest changes. If they don’t, they will be opening themselves to accusations from President Obama and others that they are merely obstructionists, zealots who will not agree to common-sense gun legislation.
The focus on background checks should not distract gun owners from the positive provisions in the Manchin-Toomey proposal.
It would allow Americans to buy handguns from out-of-state sellers, which is not allowed currently.
It would explicitly prohibit the creation of a national gun registry, and make it a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, to misuse records from the national database used for background checks.
It would affirm that unloaded guns with a lock mechanism in place can be transported across state lines.
It would immunize private gun sellers from lawsuits if a gun they have sold is used unlawfully, unless the seller knows or should have known that the buyer provided false information or was otherwise ineligible to buy a gun. Extending background checks to unlicensed sellers shouldn’t be cause for alarm. Background checks are already required for purchases from federally licensed dealers, whether at stores or gun shows, over the Internet or by mail. Moreover, gun buyers would be exempt from background checks if they had a carry permit issued within the last five years.
To my mind, the Manchin-Toomey proposal needs additional improvements to satisfy the demands of certain gun rights advocates. These changes might have helped save the proposal, which was supported by 54 senators — six votes short of the supermajority needed to overcome a filibuster.
The proposal prohibits the attorney general (as head of the Justice Department)  from creating a firearms registry, but this prohibition should be broadened to cover all government agencies.
The proposal should also exempt certain rural residents who live too far from a licensed gun dealer for a background check to be practicable.
Currently, dealers can charge up to $125  for background checks. If these fees are supposed to promote  public safety, the taxpayers — and not just law-abiding gun owners — should foot some of the bill. And more F.B.I. staff members to manage the database would also  help expedite the process.
In the current proposal, background checks at gun shows would be given priority over checks at gun stores. The government needs to hire enough staff members to promptly conduct checks at both places.
Current law denies gun permits to anyone who uses, or is addicted to, a controlled substance. The punishment for omitting this information on a background-check form is up to 10 years in federal prison — a penalty that is too harsh for someone who has merely smoked marijuana.
In the days since the defeat of the Manchin-Toomey proposal, advocates of gun restrictions have gone on the offensive. Gun-rights supporters should not stand in the way of reasonable reform. The Manchin-Toomey proposal, with the changes I’ve suggested, would offer substantial benefits while imposing tolerable restrictions, none of which intrude on our core Second Amendment liberties. Gun-rights advocates should get behind it and push for its passage.

Here are Sen.Toomey's comments just after the bill's failure:
"In the end it didn’t pass because we’re so politicized," Toomey told editors from Digital First Media in an interview published Wednesday by the Norristown Times Herald.
"There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it," Toomey added.
His comments suggest that his fellow Republicans' votes weren't governed so much by judgment of good policy so much as a desire to deprive Obama of a political and legislative victory.

To conclude, I personally don't know what to make of it all. I certainly credit the sincere effort of Sen. Manchin. I was quite disappointed that even with the obvious lessons shown in the events of Sandy Hook that we couldn't get effective background checks in place (or anemic ones, either). But I am in agreement with many that this legislation was too flawed to be effective. And I feel my usual annoyance that the gun lobby substantially weakens such legislation, then later expects 1000% effectiveness from the same bill. Such tactics lack honor, IMHO: what it is.

Other insights: note just how fractured the gun lobby showed itself to be. (NRA attorneys Judy and Cox were on quite different pages, for example. So were Koppel and Levy of the Cato Institute.) In the big picture, if Cato's Robert Levy, the architect of Mt. Scalia, spoke out against the outcome, the NRA may have jumped the shark in April.

Note the two Gottlieb "blamery" quotes. They indicate he is somewhat aware of the damage being done, i.e. "blood is on others' hands": he is aware enough of the blood being spilled to blame the "anti's" for it.

Lastly, sigh, I see with consistency that these guys just won't stop themselves, so must be stopped by others.

What do do next? I haven't a clue, except to soldier on and displace voter apathy.
Stabilizing the problem is not enough, we have to roll back the enormity of the damage, which is now a magnitude of 19.5 times what is the global norm. Whew!
That's why we have Dkos and the Firearms Laws and Policy group, eh?

Note: this essay was edited 2-23 to repair non-functioning links, to add specific objections of the "pro-rights" legal minds, and to organize a few of my own insights.
By the way, my weary soul has rested more easily since lurking around your group...


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Originally posted to reasonablegunsplz on Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 12:38 PM PST.

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