The GOP seems to have decided that on the question of universal background checks for gun purchases (an outright ban, in other words, on private sales), not only is discretion the better part of valor, but abject cowardice is the better part of discretion. As noted in the Huffington Post Tuesday, several GOP senators when asked about the issue appeared absolutely terrified of the question:
"Uh, I don't know what you mean," said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who then ended the conversation by turning around and walking into a room where senators were having lunch, closing the door behind him.
"I need to have more details. I, you know, I just need -- you need to ask me after I've talked to our judiciary staff in our office," said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), also heading to the Senate lunch. "I hate to respond just in the hallway, so I won't."
"I've got -- my wife's here. I'm sorry. I've gotta -- thanks," said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).
Completely understood, Senator--no one should be expected to answer whether or not he favors banning private gun sales within his wife's hearing. Even Tea Party "firebrand" Rand Paul claims not to have decided yet on the issue.
Missouri's own Senator Roy Blunt ("A" rated by the NRA) appears open to the idea, saying, "I think we ought to talk about that [universal background checks]," although he did seem reluctant to impose checks on "two guys living next door [who] want to trade shotguns."
As noted here Tuesday, NRA president David Keene has recently openly advocated background checks at gun shows. Granted, when NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre addressed a hunting group in Nevada this week, he spoke forcefully against universal background checks (relevant portion is about a minute and a half long).
In other words, if we are to believe both Keene and LaPierre, they are inventing a distinction between private sales at gun shows (seemingly on the bargaining table), and those elsewhere (seemingly not on the table). OK--maybe "inventing" is not quite the right word. The forcible citizen disarmament advocates went after the mythical "gun show loophole" for years before they openly acknowledged a desire to end all private sales.
This distinction, though, artificial as it is, might seem attractive to those politicians trying to walk the narrow line between keeping their "pro-gun" cred, and appeasing the gun ban lobby, the mass media and the Obama administration, while those groups indulge in their anti-gun feeding frenzy. It might also appeal to the NRA--LaPierre's bombastic claim of "absolutism" notwithstanding.
Congressional anti-gunners are hedging their bets. Rep. Carolyn "What's a Barrel Shroud?" McCarthy (D-NY) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg have introduced H.R. 141 and S. 22, respectively, to kill private sales at gun shows, but not elsewhere. Meanwhile, McCarthy has also introduced H.R. 21, and Rep. James Moran (D-VA) has introduced H.R. 137, both of which (among other things) ban all private sales.
This array of choices serve both the anti-gunners and the weak-kneed "allies" of gun rights advocates. The gun ban lobby wants the outright ban on private sales, but if that looks impossible, they'll take the still pretty big bite out of the apple that a gun show "loophole" closing bill represents (look for a legislative attack on the "internet gun sales 'loophole,'" as well). They know they can always come back for more next year, and the year after, etc., until they get it all.
Meanwhile, a flaccid GOP and NRA can claim "victory" (by virtue of having stopped the universal background check), despite gun shows (and maybe internet sales) having become vastly more heavily regulated. Note also that LaPierre, while laying down the fire and brimstone about universal background checks, also spent considerable time warning of the (very real) dangers of a national gun registry. Such a registry may not look particularly likely to pass any time soon, but by raising its menacing specter, he hopes to give gun rights advocates something else to cheer about when that threat is "defeated."
The sell-out may already have been drawn up, but that doesn't mean it cannot be undrawn, if the NRA, the GOP, and "pro-gun" Democrats hear enough fury from we the people.
- Closing the Bill of Rights loophole
- Incoming DNC chairwoman calls private gun sales 'outrageous'
- Are gun sales arranged online a 'loophole'?
- Threat to private gun sales might be greater than threat to 'assault weapons'
- Missteps and setbacks impacting gun ban momentum as gun owners start to advance
- What GOP and 'gun lobby' should be willing to yield: Absolutely nothing
- Leaving Las Vegas: SHOT Show success and challenges ahead
- Against Universal Background Checks
- NRA unlikely to strongly fight private sales ban unless pushed to do so
- The NRA On Universal Background Checks
- NRA's LaPierre: Absolutism is virtue, not vice
- Dead Elephant party goes all wobbly on private sales.
- Universal Background Check And National Gun Registry