For a few hours Wednesday, Bellevue’s Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, felt like the guest of honor at a public lynching.
A small fury erupted over a Seattle Times story that reported Gottlieb’s discussions with a state lawmaker over the possibility of supporting so-called “universal background checks” and for many of those screaming for his hide, it appears a fair number of them didn’t read the proverbial small print. That is, they didn’t read beyond the third or fourth paragraph to learn that Gottlieb’s interest was very conditional.
There would have to be exemptions for concealed pistol license holders and for members of gun organizations that hold gun shows and do background checks on their members, and limit gun transactions to those members. An exemption for gun exchanges between family members is also non-negotiable.
And the icing on the cake would be destruction of the state’s pistol registry that is maintained by the Department of Licensing. The story garnered 1,255 comments from readers, which must approach some kind of record.
But then in mid-afternoon, the tide changed. Gottlieb decided it was necessary to explain what he was up to, and this column reported the situation. And then messages began appearing in the CCRKBA e-mail inbox.
One Vancouver resident wrote, “Thank you for speaking to me via phone on 2/20/13 regarding CCRCBA negotiating HB-1588. Though I don't think we should negotiate with the anti-gunners, I understand your point of view. You and I are on the same team. I think the key is for all the pro gun groups (CCRKBA, NRA, GOA, etc) to not talk bad about each other, even if we have some slight disagreemens on tactics.
“Thanks again for taking the time to speak to a citizen during this busy time protecting gun rights,” the message continued. “Thanks for your help back in 1997 defeating I-676.”
Then there was this, from a Yakima man who had earlier sent Gottlieb a blistering message: “After reviewing the information that came forth from you on HB 1588 I offer my apology in doubting your effort to change the extent of this bill. I hope (you’re) able to accomplish all your efforts on it. Keep up on all the great work you have done. Again, Thank you!”
A man in Texas sent Gottlieb a personal note: “I speak only for myself, and I say "Give 'em Hell, Gottlieb!" I appreciate all that you have done, and continue to do, to regain our lost Rights, and I, for one, am quite proud to be on your side...”
On the gun rights forums, people began weighing in as well. At WaGuns, one man posted, “The move is Genius.
“Anti-gun, anti-rights, pro-gun control, leftist, police have always denied they want to 'register' and 'confiscate' our firearms,” he said. “But they have been caught right here in Washington doing just that. Every handgun bought through a dealer in Washington state is in a database. Gottlieb has said to put up or shut up, get rid of the database and we will have 'universal' background checks. (CPL holders exempt, family members exempt)
“There is no record keeping requirement for the private seller in this bill, the state is not allowed to keep records. Keep records of what? A certificate saying you passed a background check and you are eligible to buy a gun. It never says that you actually bought the gun. It does not (say) which gun. Depending upon the final language this may be a brilliant move or at least a strong enough move by the pro rights side for the gun control group to vote against 'universal background checks'. Which would be at the least entertaining...”
There is sometimes a tendency in any strong interest group for people to fight amongst themselves harder than they battle their opponents. Gun rights is an emotional issue.
Background checks are a given. An overwhelming majority of Americans, including gun owners, favor some form of check to prevent convicted felons and mentally unstable people from legally buying firearms. It is a given that determined criminals and crazy people will find a way to get guns, but the reasoning appears to be that the checks make it harder.
It appears that once most people took a breath and figured out what Gottlieb is up to, blood pressures have gone down. There remain a relative handful of people for whom such checks are toxic, although they’ve gone through them to get a concealed pistol license and to buy any kind of firearm at retail.
Unless and until Congress and state lawmakers can be convinced to repeal the check laws, the next best thing is to make them palatable and with as little inconvenience as possible. It’s not an ideal situation, but barring some miracle, it’s the situation we will live with.