Franklin Graham’s “Background Check” Support Becomes an Issue for the NRA

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 year’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 isn’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.

19 thoughts on “Franklin Graham’s “Background Check” Support Becomes an Issue for the NRA”

  1. Billy Graham interjected himself into politics when he stood by Nixon during his impeachment. As a result, he learned the hard way that religion and politics don’t mix well. It worked out for the best for Rev. Graham, though, as his evangelism took off once he concentrated on that and not the ballot box.

    His son has yet to learn that lesson, and it will come back on him, just like it did with his Dad.

  2. I have attended these in the past when they were held on Saturday morning before the member meeting. At that time it was a partnership with the Christian Sportsman Fellowship and that group scheduled the speakers and no politics were discussed. I don’t know if that is still the case as I have not attended one since they moved it to Sunday. I’m usually leaving town early Sunday morning.

    1. One would hope that will still be the case. But I’m just floored that nobody appears to have thought to run a name through Google with the term “gun control” just to make sure there are no surprises before extending an invitation to any speaker. Because the anti-gun groups are going to be making his presence about specific political issues, the event may end up being inherently political.

      1. I go to the prayer breakfasts. They have nothing to do with politics or legislation or issues at all. So I have no problem with FG as the guest speaker. C’mon the idea that he would use his prayerful thoughts as a forum to make the Demanding Mothers happy is laughable. They can wish and dream, but he would not do it…

  3. In Graham’s defense what you quoted doesn’t appear to be a direct quote from him but rather a paraphrase. I don’t trust the media, especially Time, and especially when they went all in on gun control. It’s possible (highly likely??) that right after the shooting he said he’d support one of the various bills floating around – in concept but without knowing the details. Which of course doesn’t mean he actually supports anything. Only that he is a politician like all the others who can’t help but respond to reporters to get his name in the press.

    He’s also a savvy politician and knows where his bread is buttered and how poorly the bill failed. Probably also has learned more specific details of it since then. I would be shocked if he said anything and risked his entire career.

    1. While I do quote a summary, it was also an article about how they were reaching out to the White House to offer their support for that specific part of the administration’s agenda. At they time they did it, this was the bill that the White House was pushing.

      Graham specifically is quoted in that article as saying this in the context of that bill: “As ministers, we agreed together that we could stand on a united front for universal background checks. … We think that’s reasonable and responsible.” In exchange for his backing of the Schumer language – the only version on the table at that point (I went through our entire March archives to verify that) – he did request that the White House also take on Hollywood and video game makers in an effort to crack down on their products. If that offer is inaccurate, he never made an effort that I could find to correct the inaccuracies. One of his other quotes on the bill was a pledge to line up his SoCo followers behind the legislation: “There are millions of people that we can mobilize behind something like this…”

      I don’t expect that Graham would bring up that he was a public backer of a bill so extreme that not even a Democratically-controlled Senate would vote on it, but it does create a problem that NRA may need to answer for. The MDA crowd is supporting going after Graham’s background on it to create a problem for NRA, and I fully expect them to bring it up repeatedly in Indy since they are planning to try and sort of crash the meeting in a way. I’m sure the Brady Campaign will make sure that every reporter who has even one byline on the Annual Meetings on Friday has a press release on it in their inboxes by Saturday evening.

  4. We do all know that this breakfast will take place in a state that tried a UBC and then repealed the UBC for being completely feckless, right?

    From 1974 to 1998 Indiana banned private transfers of handguns. It did not result in a single prosecution that I can find and did not stop a single crime. It was widely disregarded at my father’s dining room table and openly, in front of the police, at the Indy1500 gun show, a very large gun show in Indianapolis.

    The complete lack of compliance resulted in its repeal in 1998.

  5. Seems kind of late to change things now, so maybe they should make a point of him being there instead. Kind of troll everyone that they, unlike some, are at least willing to listen to opposing viewpoints. Kind of rub it in that, unlike a certain company, they don’t railroad people over a remark or contribution.

    1. But we do. We generally punish traitors pretty harshly.

      Personally I don’t think it is appropriate for the guy to be a keynote speaker at any NRA event. He needs to wander in the wilderness on the margins for a few years and demonstrate some loyalty on the issue.

      I would be ok with his presence on a pro/con panel which is intentionally debating different sides of the issue, so he can articulate his pro-UBC position. That’s fine. I feel comfortable in our side’s ability to logically defeat the anti-gun position. But that sort of context or panel would be different than using him as a keynote speaker for a function.

      1. Oh yeah, I know the *traitors* are ostrisised PDQ on this side. But never pass up an opportunity to troll the anti’s by their own standards. I can’t argue about anything you wrote, but when the gigging is good, gig’em harder.

      2. I’m with you. Why the hell are they booking someone on name alone, without actually getting someone who is provably on our side?

        Just cause his daddy was a famous preacher…

        The idea of “famous preacher” brings up my bile anyway. I don’t remember Jesus wanting to be a rockstar, nor do I recall him having the trappings of luxury. Franklin Graham has a reported salary of well over $1,000,000.00 per year and a private plane. Just like Jesus.

        If the NRA wanted to bring in a down-to-earth pastor who can talk the talk – and walk the walk – when it comes to the intersection of firearms, freedom and religion, they should have called on someone like Pastor Kenn Blanchard (“Black Man with a Gun” blog) out of Maryland. He stood shoulder to shoulder with the gun community and faced down the gun controllers, even when it was not in his best interest. He testified in multiple chambers about the civil rights issues and went door to door in that capitol complex talking to lawmakers.

        We don’t need more dynastic rockstars. We need more Kenn’s.

      3. I’m kind of with Chris on this case. When the endorsement of the White House’s language came just a year ago, it’s a bit much to invite him as a keynote speaker. However, having some kind of panel really doesn’t work given the venue of the prayer breakfast. The best we can hope for at this point is that he ignores those he allied with politically last year and just keeps his trap shut about the issue, even if pressed by the media for a comment on it.

        The biggest reason I blogged about it isn’t to drive him away or “punish” him as a “traitor.” I just noticed that the anti-gun groups were really starting to pick up on the situation and it is a serious issue for discussion since it very well might end up in the media related to the convention. As a member, I’m also curious how a keynote invitation was given when this guy was reaching out to the media offering to bring SoCos along on a gun control bill that would have resulted in many gun owners unwittingly committing felonies in the hopes that he could also get the White House to attack Hollywood for their films he finds immoral. Like Chris suggested, I there’s a difference between inviting people to speak on panels or have discussions and keynote addresses. Fortunately, if what others say is true about past events, he may be pressured to not promote his previous gun control support just because politics isn’t done at the prayer breakfast. And, if he’s as much of a politician as noted here in the comments, he’ll be smart to shut up about his positions if he talks to the media at all.

        It would be nice if he would, in some venue that isn’t specifically the prayer breakfast, admit that he was duped by what the administration/Democrats told him was in the bill and what the bill would actually do to innocent gun owners and that he never supported anything like what they pushed.

  6. Last I heard was the 2nd Amendment had no qualifiers attached to it. If you have to go through a background check for a single “Right” then you should have to for all the “Rights”!!!

    1. Umm, you’re actually suggesting a non-Christian for the only explicitly Christian event at the entire convention?

      And after all, the prayer breakfast lets us justify skipping church stuff to hang out in the exhibition floor all week-end. ;)

      Plus we bring our families to keep them happy too. Otherwise we’d just be “abandoning them to go to another gun show”… Bring ’em along and suddenly you become Father of the Year!

      (I’d rather drink a beer, than win Father of the Year, but I’m happy with things the way they are…)

      1. Did I miss a [wink] tag somewhere or are you a troll? Dennis Prager is the biggest and most competent proponent of the values of a Judeo-Christian America and happened to be one of only two people invited by Republicans to testify on behalf of the initial passage of the DOMA.

        I’d estimate that Prager extols and proclaims the virtues of the Christian beliefs better then 95% of self identified Christians. I’d wager that he teaches more conservative values then 75% of the Christian pastors and teachers.

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