Second Amendment luminary Alan Gottlieb has an important message for the National Rifle Association when it comes to universal background checks.
“The gun rights lobby has to wake up and realize we need to lead, not follow,” the founder of the Second Amendment Foundation and the the chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms told Guns.com in an interview at the at the NRA’s 143rd Annual Meetings and Exhibits in downtown Indianapolis last weekend.
Gottlieb’s desire to strike a deal on an enhanced background check measure that would cover private sales made over the Internet and at gun shows is based on the premise that fighting UBCs is a losing battle over the long run.
Polls show that the public overwhelmingly supports background checks for every gun sale, moreover, former mayor Michael Bloomberg just injected $50 million into his pro-gun control organization Everytown for Gun Safety, which is almost primarily focused on pushing for background check reform at the federal and state level.
Up against a formidable, determined and well-funded foe that has widespread public support on this issue, one can see why Gottlieb believes it’s not a battle the NRA or any other gun-rights group for that matter can win in the end. Ergo, it’s best to come to terms while one still has leverage.
“If we write a background check bill we could write it in a way that protects our rights,” Gottlieb explained. “If we let the other side do it it’s not going to protect our rights and it’ll be a disaster because Bloomberg wants to write it in a way that’s more than a disaster.”
“So, the question is do we lead or do we follow?” he asked.
“I think we need to lead, something we haven’t done because now we’re seeing background check measures on ballots in various states that are extremely draconian that really do attack our rights and we have a problem because the public perception is basically ‘Hey, what’s wrong with a background check?'”
At one point Gottlieb supported the controversial Manchin-Toomey Amendment, a federal UBC measure that fell six votes shy of the 60 needed to overcome a Republican led filibuster in the Senate. Gottlieb pulled his support at the last minute because Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) reneged on an important provision regarding rights restoration.
From Gottlieb’s perspective, the Manchin-Toomey Amendment — which contained several pro-gun measures, including an outright ban on a national gun registry and background check exemptions for friends, neighbors, family members — was certainly the lesser of two evils, i.e. a compromised bill sponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), both A-rated NRA members, versus one written solely by the Schumer, Feinstein and other staunch pro-gun control supporters.
Since Manchin-Toomey failed, Everytown has taken the UBC battle to the state level something Gottlieb predicted would happen. Not only that, he correctly predicted they’d gain ground.
As Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, noted in a speech at a counter demonstration this past Friday, “Just look at what we’ve done in the year since the tragedy at Sandy Hook. We’ve made tremendous strides in several states across the nation. We’ve worked together to pass background check legislation in Colorado, Connecticut, New York, Maryland and Delaware.”
Currently, Gottlieb is doing his best to fight a stringent UBC measure in his home state of Washington, one that has no exemptions for concealed carry permit holders or even law enforcement officers. Everyone would have to undergo a FFL-facilitated background check for every firearm transfer. Making matters worse, it’s unclear what FFLs can charge for this process. Gottlieb has sponsored an alternative measure that, if passed, would negate the more stringent provisions in the UBC bill.
Perhaps ironically, the man who wanted to compromise on background checks now finds himself spending hundreds of thousands of donor dollars fighting a background check battle that could have been avoided were Manchin-Toomey to clear the House and Senate.
It goes without saying but that money the SAF and CCRKBA raised could have been used to safeguard against magazine restrictions and bans on so-called “assault weapons” or appropriated for court cases challenging infringements on concealed carry rights or used on a multitude of other worthy endeavors to preserve and protect one’s Second Amendment rights.
Without leadership, without a pragmatic mindset, without a willingness to compromise, Gottlieb fears the worst.
“If we don’t lead the train we’re going to get run over by the train and I’ve been saying this for a couple years now.”