Along with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is the most influential pro-gun control voice participating in the White House discussions on ways to prevent gun-related violence, including future mass shootings like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.
Given this fact, gun owners can assume that the gun control recommendations Vice President Joe Biden will present to President Obama this Tuesday will mirror – to a large degree – what the Brady Campaign has released today in its own set of policy changes to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and sociopaths.
So, with that said, what is Brady’s policy agenda?
From their press release:
Our top policy priority is closing the massive hole in the background check system that enables 40% of all gun sales to take place without background checks, not only at gun shows, but also with the added anonymity of the internet. As a result convicted felons, domestic abusers, the dangerously mentally ill and other prohibited purchasers can easily purchase guns with no questions asked. Calling it a “gun show loophole” trivializes the problem. “Universal background checks” on all gun sales would have a clear positive impact on public safety, and is also clearly compatible with the rights of law-abiding citizens to own guns. These policies also tend to enjoy the greatest public support. For example, 92% of Americans and 74% of NRA members support background checks.
Examples of additional policies that should be implemented include:
• Strengthen the background check system that already exists to ensure, for example, that mental health and other relevant records are in the background check system and readily available within the states.
• Improve the ability to identify dangerous people who present the most risk, especially among the mentally ill.
o We should provide legal mechanisms to prevent those dangerously mentally ill who present the most significant risk from possessing guns, while carefully protecting the rights of those who are mentally ill but do not pose a risk.
o Other dangerous people who are currently not prohibited from purchasing firearms include: terrorists, violent misdemeanants (not involving domestic violence), violent juvenile offenders, and some substance abusers.
• Support law enforcement by giving them the tools to crack down on gun trafficking and prevent straw purchases.
o Limit the number of guns that can be purchased in a short period of time.
o Make gun trafficking a federal offense.
o Allow the ATF to conduct more than one spot inspection a year for dealers (currently prohibited).
• Eliminate legal loopholes that unfairly protect dangerous practices that contribute to gun deaths and injuries.
o Guns are the only consumer product exempt from federal product safety regulations, so feasible safety features are not required.
o Negligent gun companies are the only businesses shielded from state civil justice laws, so corrupt gun sellers are not held accountable.
o Crime gun data is the only special industry exception to public disclosure under FOIA, so officials, law enforcement and researchers are kept in the dark.
o Department of Health and Human Services agencies, including the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control, are prevented from studying guns as a public safety risk, so important public health data on policies and programs to prevent gun injury are unavailable.
o ATF is prevented from requiring basic store inventories that would prevent thefts and expose corrupt dealers, and minimal punishment and excessive evidentiary hurdles make it unduly difficult to punish traffickers and corrupt dealers.
• Limit the availability of military-style weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines that are designed for mass killing.
Of the items listed, the push for universal background checks (or the closure of the inaptly named ‘gun show loophole’) seems to be the top priority not only for the Brady Campaign, but also for the White House as well, according to Washington insiders who’ve had access to the internal deliberations.
Matt Bennet, the vice president of a liberal research group known as Third Way told the New York Times that universal background checks is the most politically feasible solution on the table and that a protracted battle over ‘assault’ weapons could end poorly for gun control activists.
“The assault-weapons ban is a low priority relative to the other measures the Biden Task Force is considering,” Mr. Bennett said. “Political capital in the gun debate only goes so far. We think it should be spent on things that would have the greatest impact on gun violence, like universal background checks and cracking down on gun trafficking.”
“While they won’t admit it, the N.R.A. probably wants the A.W.B. fight,” Bennett added, “because it will dominate the debate, drive away some moderate members of Congress, and put the focus on a gun ban, rather than their outrageous and indefensible opposition to background checks, a modern gun trafficking law, and the use of gun violence data by law enforcement.”
Interesting thought, but a spokesman for the Obama administration was quick to dismiss the idea of putting the assault weapons ban on the back burner.
“Those reports are false,” White House spokesman Matt Lehrich told The Huffington Post Friday. “The president has been clear that Congress should reinstate the assault weapons ban and that avoiding this issue just because it’s been politically difficult in the past is not an option.”
The other major measure in play at the moment is the ban on high-capacity magazines, something that has a growing level of support even amongst GOP lawmakers.
“I think that’s a whole different issue, that can maybe be dealt with without violating the 2nd Amendment, but I want to see the legislation,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told the Des Moines Register, with respect to a ban on high-capacity magazines.
Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA), who is a NRA lifetime member, made the same point in a separate interview.
“There are some problems, and maybe these huge magazines even for someone who says, ‘look, I just use an AR-15 for target practice,’ but do you really need to be standing there shooting at a silhouette a shot a second or even quicker with that kind of weapon? For what purpose?” Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA), an NRA member, told the Marietta Daily Journal. “I would be willing to listen to the possibility of the capacity of a magazine.”
So, realistically and as it stands today, gun owners should expect universal background checks and a ban on high capacity magazines to be the top two legislative priorities as far as gun control is concerned for 2013.