June 10, 2007

Democrats And The NRA -- Partners?

Democrats and the NRA have opposed each other for decades. Democratic activists have long railed at the power of the NRA lobby, while the NRA has long accused Democrats of wanting to disarm law-abiding Americans and violating the Second Amendment. However, the Washington Post reports that the two sides have come together to create legislation that promotes security while reinforcing the right to purchase firearms:

Senior Democrats have reached agreement with the National Rifle Association on what could be the first federal gun-control legislation since 1994, a measure to significantly strengthen the national system that checks the backgrounds of gun buyers.

The sensitive talks began in April, days after a mentally ill gunman killed 32 students and teachers at Virginia Tech University. The shooter, Seung Hui Cho, had been judicially ordered to submit to a psychiatric evaluation, which should have disqualified him from buying handguns. But the state of Virginia never forwarded that information to the federal National Instant Check System (NICS), and the massacre exposed a loophole in the 13-year-old background-check program.

Under the agreement, participating states would be given monetary enticements for the first time to keep the federal background database up to date, as well as penalties for failing to comply.

To sign on to the deal, the powerful gun lobby won significant concessions from Democratic negotiators in weeks of painstaking talks. Individuals with minor infractions in their pasts could petition their states to have their names removed from the federal database, and about 83,000 military veterans, put into the system by the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2000 for alleged mental health reasons, would have a chance to clean their records. The federal government would be permanently barred from charging gun buyers or sellers a fee for their background checks. In addition, faulty records such as duplicative names or expunged convictions would have to be scrubbed from the database.

This addresses two problems with the current systems in place to keep the mentally adjudicated from purchasing firearms. First, it requires participating states to conduct audits to ensure that they have reported all cases of mental commitment to the federal database. Once complete, it addresses the cost burden by picking up 90% of the bill for getting the databases updated.

In fact, one point conservatives will love is the elimination of the specific unfunded mandate. The federal government will carry the cost of keeping the database current. It will give block grants of $250 million per year to each state that participates after their audits have completed to help maintain the database. Those who fall out of compliance could not only lose that money, but also could see their law-enforcement grants reduced or eliminated until they fix their problems.

Given the problem in the system that led to Seung Hui Cho's massacre at Virginia Tech, this compromise looks like an effective bolstering of the instant-check system. Everyone, including those who oppose gun control, wants weapons kept out of the hands of the mentally disturbed. The NRA said at the time that they would support efforts to make the instant-check system work more effectively, and in return, they won a more efficient system for the wrongly-included to be removed from the database.

Everyone wins in this compromise. It shows what happens when differing groups look outside of their rhetoric to find points of agreement. Instead of fighting the whole battle all the time, opposing interests can find ways to make improvements where those interests overlap.


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» Democrats and the NRA - Together at Last from The Crossed Pond
An easily missed story courtesy of Ed at CQ about quiet efforts between the NRA and Senate Democrats, underway since shortly after Virginia Tech, to smarten up gun control laws (background checks, databases, federal-state coordination, etc). Senior... [Read More]

Comments (16)

Posted by docjim505 | June 10, 2007 8:09 AM

Cap'n Ed wrote:

Everyone, including those who oppose gun control, wants weapons kept out of the hands of the mentally disturbed. The NRA said at the time that they would support efforts to make the instant-check system work more effectively, and in return, they won a more efficient system for the wrongly-included to be removed from the database.

Amazing. Simply amazing. The NRA has long been in favor of instant background checks both to prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands AND to prevent the government from making the approval process prohibitively long. It's a common-sense solution, especially in our computerized age. Opposition has come from libs who want to ban guns entirely and see the NRA as a group of thugs who want to give machineguns to children.

That the two sides could work together on something is like the lion lying down with the lamb. Or, better still, the lion lying down with a rabid rat.


Color me cynical, but I can't help having some suspicion. Any time liberals are involved in something, there's the definite prospect of chicanery, some loophole that they can use to try to take away our guns. We'll see...

One final note: while I like the idea of instant background checks, do we REALLY want the government to be collecting huge databases about citizens?

So, how about this modest proposal: dealers will sell firearms to customers in the same way that they did 100 years ago, i.e. without background checks, waiting periods, etc. If a person uses a gun to commit a crime, we actually PUNISH them. This eliminates the need for paperwork, databases, and an extensive and expensive bureaucracy to oversee it all and puts the burden where it belongs: on the citizen to obey the friggin' law.

Posted by RKV | June 10, 2007 8:25 AM

Doc Jim, I heartily agree with you. Pre-sale background checks presume guilt. No one should need a federal license to sell a firearm, nor do we need background checks, nor waiting periods, etc. It's a tool folks, only as good or bad as the person who uses it. And owning this kind of tool is a right enumerated in our Constitution. Stop getting used to the idea that owning a gun is a privilege.

Posted by davod | June 10, 2007 8:29 AM

Block grants of $250 milllion per year. The article said the USG would take care f the cost, why the block grants?

I bet the moment the legislation hits the floor of the house you will find the Dems lied to the NRA.

Posted by azlibertarian | June 10, 2007 9:04 AM

I've been burned enough in the past on gun control agreements to be skeptical too. In addition to the points above, the thing that jumped out at me was that the $250M block grant was per state, not per capita. With his past record on gun issues, as well as his histronics on the Homeland Security funding, I cannot imagine that Sen. Schumer would let NYS get the same funding as one of those square states somewhere in flyover country.

Posted by Bob Leibowitz | June 10, 2007 9:38 AM

Ed -- Did you really mean to say $250 million per year EACH? That adds up to a truly healthy sum. -- Bob

Posted by GarandFan | June 10, 2007 9:40 AM

The Virginia Tech shooting was a result of one state's interpretation of what did/did not constitute an involuntary mental health committment. Now it appears we will have a national standard.
The legislature of the People's Rebuplik of Kalifornia has just passed onto the Senate a bill requiring instant background checks for AMMUNITION PURCHASES. Despite the negative results reported to them in a study that they ordered, they've also passed on a new law requiring engraving of firing pins which will imprint expended cartridges with identifying data.
No, the libs haven't given up on 'gun control'.

Posted by chuck_1776 | June 10, 2007 9:41 AM

And the NRA isn't worried about the movement by psychologists to label conservatism itself a mental illness? As
George Wll writes, according the authors of one so-call study, "Liberals, you see, embrace liberalism for an obvious and uncomplicated reason -- liberalism is self-evidently true. But conservatives embrace conservatism for reasons that must be excavated from their inner turmoils, many of them pitiable or disreputable.".

Posted by anonintexas | June 10, 2007 10:14 AM

"judicially ordered to submit to a psychiatric evaluation" is not equivalent to mentally ill

Posted by Yatalli | June 10, 2007 11:37 AM

Chalk up another vote in the extreme skeptic column! Although an NRA member and supporter, my perception is they alone want to be the sole voice of the firearms owner and this agreement serves to consolidate their hold and make their voice that much louder. I am with Davod, look for a sucker punch in this agreement.

Posted by Charles V | June 10, 2007 1:42 PM

er... $250 million per year to each state?

for a data base?

There is something wrong here.

Posted by Carl | June 10, 2007 3:54 PM

It's not really a man-bites-dog situation when NRA cooperates with Democrats. NRA supports Democrat candidates all the time, just in smaller numbers than they support Republicans because Dems typically support gun control. NRA (of which I'm a life member) is a truly nonpartisan organization.

Posted by Mike | June 10, 2007 4:43 PM

One must be very cautious in dealing with democrats on this issue as they have a absolute tendency to call up down and white black if it suits their needs. It's rather like the Arab-Israeli situation. What would happen is the Arabs suddenly laid down their arms and gave up their desire to annihilate Isreal? Peace. What would happen if the Israeli's laid down their arms? Genocide.

The same is true here. What would happen if the NRA and similar organizations suspended operations? No law abiding citizen would be allowed weapons of any kind. What would happen if the gun grabbers stopped trying to take the weapons of the law-abiding? Peace.

The only reason the antis are going for this, if they truly are, is because of their momentary, historic political weakness. Be very careful indeed.

Posted by SWO | June 10, 2007 5:08 PM

"judicially ordered to submit to a psychiatric evaluation" is not equivalent to mentally ill.

Anyone know the percentage of servicemen and women returning from deployment to who are directed to talk to the counselor after filling out their post deployment health survey? Won't this trigger their being entered into the data base as having been "directed to submit to a mental health evaluation?"

This will turn ugly fast.

Posted by Okonkolo | June 10, 2007 5:16 PM


I believe in a story I read today about the bill a provision was inserted to allow service members to get that wiped off. There is probably some requirement that their doctor must sign off on it or something, but it appears someone raised that concern in the compromise process.

Posted by Purple Avenger | June 10, 2007 6:33 PM

participating states would be given monetary enticements for the first time to keep the federal background database up to date,

Section 106 of the Brady Bill allocated $200M towards this back in 94', so this is hardly the "first time".

Whether that $200M was actually spent is a different question ;->

Posted by David Hardy | June 11, 2007 7:15 PM

This sounds like a step forward. As the law is, anyone who has had a mental committment (other than for observation) is barred from gun possession FOR LIFE. A person convicted of a state felony can (if state law allows) get a restoration of gun rights from the court; a person committed cannot get similar relief.

The grants are because this is going to require a lot of new data entry. Probably thousands of committment proceedings, each of which has to be checked for the reason, and then (because it would no longer be a lifetime bar) for whether the court later found the person was OK.