Yesterday was a heartbreaking day for gun control advocates around the country. After trying so desperately hard to reform the nation’s gun laws, they failed.
The centerpiece of President Obama’s plan to reduce gun-related violence, an expanded background check amendment drafted by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) failed to get the 60 votes it needed to clear the Senate. But in the wake of this crushing defeat, those who’ve pushed for tougher gun laws in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, are crying foul, claiming that the National Rifle Association lied about the Manchin-Toomey amendment to cow lawmakers into voting against it.
At a Wednesday press conference at the White House, an exasperated President Obama rebuked the nation’s gun lobby, saying they “willfully lied on this bill.”
“Unfortunately, this pattern of spreading untruths about this legislation served a purpose. Those lies upset an intense minority of gun owners and that in turn intimidated a lot of senators,” Obama said. “There were no coherent arguments as to why we shouldn’t do this, it came down to politics.”
So is this allegation true? Did the NRA lie about the Manchin-Toomey amendment, which is officially known as “The Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act?”
Well, in recent press release, NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox wrote the following about the M-T amendment.
Today, the misguided Manchin-Toomey-Schumer proposal failed in the U.S. Senate. This amendment would have criminalized certain private transfers of firearms between honest citizens, requiring lifelong friends, neighbors and some family members to get federal government permission to exercise a fundamental right or face prosecution.
However, according to the M-T amendment, only transfers at gun shows or over the Internet would require a FFL-facilitated background check, “family transfers and some private sales (friends, neighbors, other individuals) are exempt from background checks.”
So, bottom line, did the NRA tell a lie? It appears so. But there is an out here for the nation’s gun lobby. That is, the NRA could argue that if two neighbors or friends transfered a firearm at a gun show or over the Internent without a background check, they could be in violation of the law. This is a legitimate concern, no doubt.
Also, there’s more to the story. That is, putting aside the NRA prevarication on this issue, was the M-T amendment even worth passing?
The fact is, the NRA does not speak for all gun owners, not even close to most gun owners, so there was more at play here than just the will of the “gun lobby” as the president put it. I think if one does some independent inquiry, he/she will find that it was a fundamentally flawed proposal. Three examples:
Second Amendment advocate Alan Gottlieb, of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, initially supported the measure but ended up withdrawing his support at the last minute after the Senate refused to consider letting a rights restoration provision come up for a vote (for more on this, click here).
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association, also refused to back the M-T amendment citing concerns over “provisions that do not address our product liability concerns for retailers processing private party transfers and retailer record-keeping responsibilities that also expose them to possible license revocation for even simple mistakes.”
Lastly, legal expert David Kopel, the Research Director of the Independence Institute, found problems with the bills language and broke down what the unintended consequences of the proposal could look like for gun owners, e.g. a government registry, criminalizing interstate travel with firearms (check out his in-depth analysis in this National Review article).
So, on one hand, one can understand why pro-gun control lawmakers and advocates are so – to use a popular colloquial term – ‘butt-hurt’ over the NRA’s assessment of the M-T Amendment. It was misleading (though, in fairness, how often do we catch pro-gun control advocates telling lies and distorting the truth to fit their agenda? Seems like all the time: Here are 6 Lies that Sen. Dianne Feinstein told in one MSNBC Interview).
However, on the other hand, Sens. Manchin and Toomey should have taken more time to craft an amendment that addressed the concerns of the entire gun community.