Between a Rock and a Database

I’m glad to see the NRA has finally started to talk to the public, and I like what they have to say. However, now that they are talking again, I really hope they start talking about one, very important thing: the fact that they are working with the Democrats on a bill to get more state records, including mental health records, into NICS.

Now, folks should understand that this doesn’t mean the NRA approached the Democrats and said “Hey, let’s work on a gun control bill together.” In all likelihood the Democrats started working on this, it looked like it had legs, and the NRA wanted to be part of the process. We want the NRA involved in that kind of situation. If they just stood outside of the process and said “We’re taking a hard line stance on this bill and opposing it.”, they are likely to alienate some of the marginal politicians in Congress and make it easier for the hostile politicians, who would love to attach their pet gun control issues to the bill, to influence them.

The NRA can not just come out in opposition to everything that comes down the pike. There are some battles we’re not on good political ground to fight right now, and a battle over NICS is one of those. Politics is an ugly process, and sometimes you’ll get bills like this, which suddenly get momentum because of a tragedy, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do to stop it. The game, at that point, becomes making sure it does no further damage. Given the two clowns who are introducing the bill, it is absolutely vital to make sure that nothing else gets attached to it, unless it’s something to placate gun owners.

NICS is not going anywhere, because there’s substantial support for it. Even the NRA, who actively pushed instant background checks as an alternative a lengthy waiting period, is resigned to the fact that NICS exists and isn’t going away. So if the Democrats are intent on passing this bill, if you’re the NRA, you have several choices:

  1. Oppose the bill, in which case you’re really fighting NICS, which you’ve supported in the past. This will alienate a lot of marginal gun-rights supporters. It will increase the liklihood that the bill might pass with amendments that have more onerous gun controls in it.
  2. Not oppose the bill, on the condition that we get something in return. This might be possible, but it might not be. It depends on how much momentum the bill has. If the sponsors of the bill are struggling to find a majority, more people might be brougt on board by adding pro-gun amendments. My guess is for the NICS bill, we are not in a position to demand much, as they probably already have majority support.
  3. Not oppose the bill on the condition that it contain only the NICS language and absolutely nothing else. This is probably what they are going to end up doing, because it’s about where the NRA can best use its political power in a situation like this.
  4. Actively endorse the bill. I don’t think this is likely. It would piss off too many members, including me. There’s no reason to do this, and it would risk giving too much momentum to the gun control crowd.

Normally, the way you kill a bill that would have broad public support on the floor, is to get your committee members to kill it there, and get the leadership to prevent it from being brought to the floor in the first place. Now that the Democrats are in charge, we have hostile politicians in charge of many of the committees, and a hostile speaker, so what the NRA is probably seeing is that the bill is not killable in committee. If this bill passes, and we get nothing in return for it, don’t blame the NRA. Blame the Democrats. And remember that come election time in 2008.

5 thoughts on “Between a Rock and a Database”

  1. Rule 1 of (successful) politics

    If your going to oppose . . . propose.

    You always need something positive to move forward that people can support. You just can’t be in opposition to everything all the time.

    And, FWIW, with John Dingel back in power, the NRA has a former board of director (and the founder of the NRA-ILA) running the show for the Democrats (seriously, Nancy Pelosi might have the title, but Dingel is running circles around her)

  2. I don’t have a problem with NICS, and all I’d like to see are the reporting requirements for the mental patients enforced as written. Anything more than that would be beyond realistic.

    I’d like to see option 2 persued, but I’d settle for option 3.

  3. Remember that this law would not have stopped the VT shootings in any way. He was never commited. NICS would still approve him if he tried to buy a gun with this law in placce. And he could have just as easily got them off the streets in less than an hour with no background check.

  4. Remember that the law says “those adjudicated mentally defective or have been committed involuntarily to a mental institution”. It’s not clear that the VA tech killer douchbag would fall under this, but it’s probable he would.

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