If you put a gun to my head and told me to select one Guns.com interview from the 2013 NRA convention and label it a “must watch,” I would pick the interview we did with Alan Gottlieb, Chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and Founder of the Second Amendment Foundation.
Why would I select this interview over all the other great conversations we had?
Because Gottlieb and his organizations took the road less traveled. That is to say, he endorsed the controversial expanded background check agreement drafted by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) when most major gun rights organizations, including the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Gun Owners of America panned the bill, a bill which would have required background checks for all gun purchases made over the Internet or at gun shows.
“If you read the Manchin-Toomey substitute amendment, you can see all the advances for our cause that it contains like interstate sales of handguns, veteran gun rights restoration, travel with firearms protection civil and criminal immunity lawsuit protection, and most important of all, the guarantee that people, including federal officers, will go to federal prison for up to 15 years if they attempt to use any gun sales records to set up a gun registry,” said Gottlieb, in a April 14 statement.
Though, Gottlieb’s support for the Manchin-Toomey agreement was short lived because, as he tells it, at the eleventh hour, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) reneged on an important provision regarding rights restoration.
“Our support for this measure was contingent on several key provisions, the cornerstone of which was a rights restoration provision that is not on the schedule for consideration,” Gottlieb said in an April 17 press release.
“But it appears the Democratic leadership in the Senate was opposed to letting this important consideration come up for a vote,” he continued. “We told everyone including a number of senators, that while there are many pro-gun rights provisions added to the main body of the bill, our support was contingent on this additional amendment coming to the floor. When we say something, we mean it.”
In any event, this whole ordeal raised a lot of interesting questions, but one in particular that I found to be incredibly fascinating and, well, pretty darn important: strategically speaking, is it a mistake to choose controversy over compromise when dealing with the pro-gun control community?
To put that another way, is digging in and preparing to ‘Stand and Fight’ as the NRA has suggested really the best approach to dealing with the Obama administration, Bloomberg and his Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and the rest of the gun control crowd?
Wouldn’t it be better to negotiate? To find a way to give up a little on the front end to prevent losing a lot more on the back end?
Because, as we all know, the war being waged over tougher gun laws is not only being fought at the federal level, it’s also being fought at the state level. Could we prevent a draconian onslaught at the state level — think of more states enacting something reminiscent of the significantly flawed NY SAFE Act — if we negotiate at the federal level?
For Gottlieb the answer was clear. Work together with Manchin and Toomey and create a bill that satisfies the public’s urge to do something in the wake of Sandy Hook (even if it’s just a feel-good, ineffective measure like expanding background checks) while simultaneously strengthening gun rights for responsible citizens.
On some level, it’s a pragmatic political move that has the potential to put an end to the gun control debate. On another level, it’s a big risk that could backfire in a big way, i.e. gun control advocates could continue to push for draconian gun laws at the state level despite the federal background check compromise (assault weapons bans, magazine limits, etc.)
In any event, watch the interview and tell us what you think.
Also, you’ll notice that I brought up law professor David Kopel in the interview. Gottlieb and Kopel got into a debate over the legal language in the M-T Amendment. Kopel had two chief concerns, as he put it: (1) the provision that is designed to safeguard against a government gun registry actually authorizes a national registry and (2) the provision which is supposed to strengthen existing federal law protecting the interstate transportation of personal firearms in fact cripples that protection.
Guns.com also interviewed Kopel, you can check part of that interview out below (for the full conversation, click here):