In response to the Manchin-Toomey compromise on background checks—a watered-down but possibly passable bill that covers gun shows, advertised sales and internet sales—the NRA released a statement Wednesday that is being called neutral in some quarters and ludicrously depicted (because of apparent reading comprehension problems) as supportive in another. It's a reprise of the usual dollars-driven nonsense we've come to expect from the gun lobby, an organization that decades ago stood for sensible gun regulations. Here is the NRA's full statement:
Expanding background checks at gun shows will not prevent the next shooting, will not solve violent crime and will not keep our kids safe in schools. While the overwhelming rejection of President Obama and Mayor Bloomberg's "universal" background check agenda is a positive development, we have a broken mental health system that is not going to be fixed with more background checks at gun shows. The sad truth is that no background check would have prevented the tragedies in Newtown, Aurora or Tucson. We need a serious and meaningful solution that addresses crime in cities like Chicago, addresses mental health deficiencies, while at the same time protecting the rights of those of us who are not a danger to anyone. President Obama should be as committed to dealing with the gang problem that is tormenting honest people in his hometown as he is to blaming law-abiding gun owners for the acts of psychopathic murderers.That first statement is a flat-out lie. No, expanded background checks will not stop every shooting, will not stop all gun crime, will not keep all our children safe. No law will. But even this diluted compromise will, if it actually makes it to the president's desk, stop some criminally minded persons from obtaining firearms and using them.
The background check proposal that Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania have agreed upon is a step forward. Since it will surely be the only such background-check proposal in the gun bill that be debated in the Senate, it deserves to be supported.
But it is very f'n far from the full-throated law covering all gun purchases. The nation needs a better law, one that 80 percent to 90 percent of the American people have said in poll after poll that they desire. That "universal" approach to checks was shot down over the issue of record-keeping, the claim being that this would lead to a gun registry that would be a prelude to federal gun seizures. Never mind that the existing eight-decade-old federal registry of machine-guns, silencers and gadget guns has led to no such confiscation.
As I wrote before, extending background checks to all private sales is a no-brainer. And just as Pat Toomey and Joe Manchin said Wednesday morning about their proposal, mine would not infringe on anybody's 2nd Amendment rights. Except in the minds of people who believe that fugitives and violent felons and dangerous mentally ill people shouldn't be hampered from obtaining firearms.
Please continue reading about the NRA's intransigence below the fold.
All that is needed is to require all gun sales, all transfers, to be transacted for a fee by federal firearms dealers. The private dealers, who already must seek a background check on anyone seeking to buy a firearm, record the sale of all firearms and keep records of all sales for 20 years would simply do the same things for private sales.
No gun registry would be produced. There would be no change in the current law that requires the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to destroy the records of all checks within 24 hours. The only difference would be that all sales would be covered. All individuals seeking to buy a gun would be treated equally. If they pass the check, they can buy the gun, subject to whatever additional state laws are on the books.
But my proposal has no sponsor. And the reason nothing like it will be proposed is because that isn't what the NRA wants. Its well-paid leadership has worked for more than three decades to undermine reasonable gun regulations. To reduce enforcement of existing laws by supporting candidates who will do its bidding. To intimidate government agencies from using gun-related data to prevent violence. Even to try to prevent physicians from asking suicidal and other at-risk patients if they own firearms. All in the name of a twisted perspective on what the 2nd Amendment means. All in the name of keeping a steady flow of guns into the hands of the public.
The NRA leadership will never cop to the truth that its agenda has contributed to a culture of violence that is all too-pervasive in America. To be sure, that culture of violence precedes the group's founding more than a century ago. But the NRA has in the past few decades exacerbated the situation with its all-out opposition to regulations that majorities of Americans, sometimes overwhelming majorities, support. And it will be active in the next couple of weeks continuing its former practice by twisting arms in Congress.
When the next horrific shooting replaces the one now fading from the news, the NRA will pronounce its usual declaration of having no responsibility for what has happened: No regulation would have stopped this., it will say. If the teacher or bartender or theater usher had been armed, its spokesperson will say, the killer would have been stopped in his tracks and lives would have been saved.
And after its pronouncement, we'll get the standard kowtow to the NRA from senators and representatives too cowardly to stand up to these bullies and profiteers. How many dead first-graders will it take to bring the United States into the 21st century when it comes to gun violence? Would 100 on one day be enough? How about 1,000?