I’ve noticed anti-gun folks jumping on the fact that Franklin Graham is leading the NRA Annual Meeting Prayer Breakfast, and they hope that he’ll publicly challenge NRA at their own event to accept the President’s background check agenda since Graham endorsed the White House’s private transfer ban proposals last year.
First, as much experience as I have with NRA Annual Meetings, I couldn’t tell you which office puts on the prayer breakfast because I have no idea which office is responsible for booking those speakers. I’m 99.99999% sure it’s not ILA, the office that actually keeps up with politics and pays attentions to such important policy details. This is an event that has never been a big deal before, really just an opportunity for people who don’t want to miss church or miss out on the giant three day gun show.
The anti-gunners highlight this interview with Time that Franklin Graham did in early March of last year. The key section:
Graham…told TIME [he and Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention] have agreed to back universal background check legislation put forward by the administration in the wake of last yearâ€™s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
By specifically citing the administration-backed proposal at the time of the interview, it’s kind of important to look at the details of the legislation anti-gunners want Graham to bring up at the Prayer Breakfast. The language in the Senate that the White House was backing at the time of Graham’s interview came from Chuck Schumer. That language would have made teaching someone to shoot on your own land a felony, as well as loaning your hunting rifle to a friend for a hunting trip. The record keeping requirements would have created a registration system, and spouses would have faced possible felony prosecution if their spouse who bought the gun left home for more than 7 days without officially designating the “transfer” of said firearms as a gift. As Sebastian said in his summary after reading the language:
This bill has nothing to do with ensuring people who are getting guns are law-abiding, and everything to do with getting backdoor registration, and creating a patchwork of rules and laws that will land anyone who uses guns, and isnâ€™t a lawyer, in federal prison for a long time.
The bill that Graham was backing at the time he talked to Time was not Toomey-Manchin, the somewhat less extreme bill that was later voted down in the Senate.
Now, his views on that terrible bill from Schumer aren’t directly related to his ability to preach a sermon. But, given the venue and host group, I don’t think most attendees who paid for tickets really expect a preacher who publicly backed the White House’s bill that would leave many of them open to felony prosecutions for simply passing on their traditions or going on a long business trip.
At this late date, I wouldn’t really put money on a bet that we’ll see any changes to the speakers, but it will be interesting to see if Graham decides to act on the encouragement of the gun control groups. He certainly didn’t come out and condemn the White House-backed Senate bill once the language and summaries became widely available, so presumably he maintains his support of the policies. That certainly could be a very big problem if he does decide to go along with the gun control groups and use NRA’s event as a venue to promote the bill again.
NRA needs to be prepared to handle this issue since they are the ones who issued the invitation with this policy problem hanging out there. Certainly, whoever issued this invitation really screwed up by providing someone who so publicly endorsed these terrible policies a keynote spot without actually looking into their background on the policies that have dominated headlines for the last year and threatened our rights. This wasn’t some questionable comment about some vague policy from 20 years ago, this was a highly discussed interview with a well known media outlet just a year ago about specific bills that forced NRA to spend quite a bit of manpower and money to preserve our Second Amendment rights. It’s a public policy view that should not have been overlooked, and NRA needs to be ready to answer to their members if Graham does stand by his position from last March at their event.