Selling Out on Guns

Former NRA-endorsed senators broker a bargain to keep debate alive on the Democrats’ anti-gun legislation.

Two senators have brokered a Faustian bargain on gun purchaser background checks that they hope will allow the Democrats' anti-gun legislation to pass the Senate.

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), both of whom have "A" ratings with the National Rifle Association, have assigned the creepy Orwellian name, the "Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act," to their legislation.

The measure, which the sponsors plan to offer as an amendment today to the main anti-gun bill pending in the Senate (Senate bill S.649), would expand background checks for gun purchasers, which critics say would clear the way for a national gun registry in the future. Honest commentators admit collecting more information from more and more gun buyers will have no effect on crime because criminals won't bother submitting to such checks. Even worse, the data that would constitute a de facto gun registry could be used to confiscate firearms from law-abiding citizens.

Toomey acknowledged he faces resistance in his own party. For this reason he asked that a key Democratic co-sponsor of the amendment, leftist Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, skip a Capitol Hill press conference yesterday.

Although it has been said that the most dangerous place in Washington is between Schumer and a television camera, the New Yorker agreed to stay away, the New York Times reported.

Toomey rationalized his support by stating: “I’ve got to tell you, candidly, I don’t consider criminal background checks gun control.” He failed to detail some of the scarier, authoritarian provisions of the main anti-gun bill pending in the Senate that he now implicitly supports.

Gun law expert Dave Kopel warns the legislation "would turn almost every gun owner into a felon." For example, it would regulate innocent activities such as letting your spouse borrow your weapon for a few days. It would also forbid you from sharing a gun at a shooting range on public lands or on your own property.

"This is not 'gun control' in the constitutionally legitimate sense: reasonable laws that protect public safety without interfering with the responsible ownership and use of firearms," Kopel says.

Toomey, an otherwise principled Tea Party conservative, appears to have caved in to pressure from New York mayor Michael Bloomberg's 501c4 advocacy group, Mayors Against Illegals Guns Action Fund. The group had been running ads in Pennsylvania critical of Toomey, but after the senator switched sides it replaced those messages with new ads praising him for supposedly seeing the light.

In a state like Pennsylvania, ads -- even slashing negative ones -- highlighting Toomey's principled support for the Second Amendment would probably only help the freshman senator's 2016 reelection bid. Gun control is a proven loser of an issue in Pennsylvania, as it is in all but a select few states. The Keystone State reportedly issued close to a million hunting licenses in 2011 and has 400,000 NRA members.

Toomey's calculation is difficult to gauge, as it makes little political sense. Constituent calls into his offices are reportedly running 200 to 1 against the deal. Even if anti-gun legislation somehow clears the Senate, it seems unlikely to survive the House of Representatives where lawmakers relish ideological combat much more than in the clubby Senate. So far Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) seems to be holding firm in his defense of the Second Amendment.

Media cheer-leading to the contrary, Obama has been losing this legislative battle almost from the beginning.

After the ringleaders of the Left ghoulishly stood atop the bodies of the school children murdered by a madman in Newtown, Connecticut in December, public support for new gun restrictions ticked up slightly for a little over two months. That spike in support has since evaporated.

Last month Obama was forced to withdraw the nomination of Second Amendment enemy Caitlin J. Halligan to the critical District of Columbia Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. Halligan was successfully filibustered twice by Republican senators largely because of her vehement opposition to gun ownership rights.

An effort to resurrect the useless assault weapons ban sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is dead after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) dropped it from pending legislation. Feinstein authored the previous assault weapons ban, which was in effect from 1994 to 2004. The feel-good provision had no discernible effect on crime rates.

It is unclear if Toomey's about-face will have an effect on the filibuster being waged against the Harry Reid-backed gun control legislation pending in the Senate.

Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and others have vowed to block the bill, arguing that such a drastic change to current law requires the support of 60 senators.

But the Left, including former Rudy Giuliani speechwriter and phony centrist John Avlon, say the filibuster is hurting Republicans.

There is, of course, no evidence of this.

If anything, a failure to take a dramatic stand to defend Americans' Second Amendment rights is much more likely to drive Republicans away from the Grand Old Party.

Which makes Toomey's "compromise" all the more puzzling.

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