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May 3, 2015

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Senate foes of gun bill embrace a falsehood

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The Senate’s failure to advance the Toomey-Manchin amendment to expand background checks on gun purchases showed the American people that regardless of their preferences, regardless of what a majority of senators want, regardless of the amount of compromise, some senators refuse to represent their states.

Public polling is clear, and those who argue that polling is nonscientific, not truly capturing public opinion, are liberal machinations, or are biased in sampling and question wording remind us of those who expected a decisive Romney victory in November because all the polls were wrong.

One poll could be off; two polls could fall victim to poor question wording. Yet the reality of public opinion on background checks is well-established by a variety of sources, including universities; in blue states, red states and swing states; by liberal sources and conservative sources; and by the most well-regarded polling firms in the world.

Such support is not mixed. In almost every poll, between 85 percent and 91 percent of Americans support such reforms. Support is not regional, nor gendered, nor partisan, nor ideological, nor dependent on gun ownership. It is as broad-based as the reforms are moderate. It is as systematic as Toomey-Manchin is sensible.

Despite public opinion, 45 senators failed to represent voters, and instead represented interest groups. (There were 46 nay votes because Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., was required by Senate rules to switch his vote from “yea” in order to reserve the right to recall the legislation at a later date — a common procedural move by Senate leaders.)

They fell victim to pressure from a lobby that warned of national registries and criminalizing innocent behaviors. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, noted on the Senate floor that, “This is a slippery slope of compromising the Second Amendment, and if we go down that road, we are going to find it easier to compromise other things in the Bill of Rights.”

Senators failed to allow public opinion to get in the way of their voting. The same can be said for the facts. Fears about national registries arose because of interest group involvement and U.S. senators constantly repeating talking points that diverged from reality. A quick reading of the Toomey-Manchin legislation shows that a national gun registry was explicitly banned in not one, not two, but three places.

• “Congress supports and reaffirms the existing prohibition on a national firearms registry.”

• “Nothing in this title, or any amendment made by this title shall be construed to allow the establishment, directly or indirectly, of a federal firearms registry.”

• “Prohibition of National Gun Registry. — Section 923 of Title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:

“(m) The Attorney General may not consolidate or centralize the records of the -

(1) Acquisition or disposition of firearms, or any portion thereof, maintained by -

(A) a person with a valid, current license under this chapter;

(B) an unlicensed transferor under section 922(t); or

(2) Possession or ownership of a firearm, maintained by any medical or health insurance entity.”

This language could not be clearer. Public support could not be stronger. And 45 senators could not possibly have turned their backs on their constituents in a more striking way.

Victims of gun violence — particularly families who suffered losses in the Newtown, Conn., massacre — came to Capitol Hill not to promote their personal interests or to promote their personal narrative above public will. They lobbied senators to support something Americans overwhelmingly support.

Forty-five senators worried that conducting background checks on gun buyers is a constitutional violation and feared the wrath of interest groups that represent the views of 10 percent of the population on this issue. Now they must hope that when voters conduct their own background checks before going into the voting booth, that this vote is overlooked.

John Hudak is a fellow of governance studies at the Brookings Institution.

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  1. The columnist is wrong about the Toomey-Manchin Amendment and a prohibition of a national gun registry. The Toomey-Manchin Amendment says and I quote:

    ""(m) The Attorney General may not consolidate or centralize the records of the"

    It does not prohibit another Federal agency or agency head from creating a national registry of gun owners. Therein lies the problem and the reason, in part, that 46 Senators voted against expanded background checks. Which I might add have been part of federal law since 1994 with the Brady Act.

    Carmine D

  2. There's no excuse for Dean Heller since polls showed 86% of Nevadans favored expanded background checks. But then, Dean Heller has always been a poor excuse.

  3. Jim:

    Truth be told, criminals don't legally buy guns. Don't believe me? Visit a prison and talk to the inmates who committed gun crimes and violence. Ask them where and how they got the guns used to commit their crimes. If you find one out of 10 who legally purchased a gun, you're doing much better than the national average.

    Carmine D

  4. CarmineD

    Truth is, law-abiding citizens fill out forms to legally purchase guns from licensed dealers and have for years. Unlike you, they don't defend others who don't.

  5. Laws do not imply or infer anything except what the law specifically says IN WRITING. Generalities are nice for social conversation and small talk but not laws. Laws MUST be specific. In the absence of saying there is a prohibition by all Federal agencies and agency heads, NOT JUST THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, there is none. Period. End of story.

    Carmine D

  6. Jim:

    Laws are not for law abiding citizens. They do the right thing with or without laws. Laws address the criminals who don't, or at least the laws should.

    Carmine D

  7. I say someone who quotes "findings" as LAW is the Simpleton of all simpletons.

    Learn the difference before you call people liars.

    Unless it's your President who knows the difference and lies to the American people in the Rose Garden and those who don't [know the difference] believe him.

    Read the latest on Benghazi? Talk about lies?

    Carmine D

  8. "Hey Carmine:

    We need a refund on the salary we paid you and your pension, we got robbed."

    No can do. I'm still collecting my own contributions that I made into my retirement fund. And when I die, and when I'm gone, they'll be one federal servant less to carry on.

    Carmine D

  9. Jeff:

    You and this columnist quoted the "Findings" section of the bill as "Law" and personally attacked those who quoted the "Law" correctly, like me and the 45 Senators who voted against it, including 5 Dems not counting Reid. I gave you the benefit of the doubt here and on another thread for not knowing the difference [between "Findings" and the Bill's "Law."]. As you continue on this nonsensical road of being obtuse, after learning the difference from me, then you haven't learned after being taught.
    Carmine D

  10. Jeff:

    I'm still got your king. At your rate, you'll never get him back.

    Carmine D

  11. It's my holster, Jeff.

    Carmine D

  12. "The Democrats failure to pass the Grassley Amendment is the question that John Hudak should be writing about."

    Columnist is referring to the Toomey-Manchin amendment, not Grassley.

    Carmine D

  13. CarmineD (Carmine DiFazio) (4:28 a.m.) is quite correct in saying that "Laws do not imply or infer anything except what the law specifically says IN WRITING."

    The Toomy-Manchin Amendment very specifically said, in writing, "Nothing in this Act, or any amendment made by this Act, shall be construed to--... allow the establishment, directly or indirectly, of a Federal firearms registry." (Sec. 3, para 2.) Carmine - how would you make that more specific?

  14. Jeff:

    As usual you're using old news, old facts. Get current lad. Did you notice a little look of concern on Hillary at the George W. dedication yesterday?

    Carmine D

  15. Here's a newsflash for you Jeffery boy: President Obama cut the 6th fleet in the Mediterranean. If he hadn't, there would have been a Marine Expeditionary Unit, or two or more, in Benghazi, Libya within and hour of the news of the attack on the Consulate and CIA house. 100 plus special U.S. forces there, boom in a flash. Think they would have squashed the attack and saved some lives?

    Carmine D

  16. Too late, President Obama bought the bridge already. It cost 4 U.S. government employees giving their lives for their country. Why? Hillary had the answer: What difference does it make?

    Carmine D