Gun Control Activists Lobbying Senate GOP On Background Checks

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

With Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowing “swift” action on a pair of gun control bills that passed the U.S. House last week, gun control activists and anti-gun politicians have already begun their lobbying efforts. While most Democrats in the Senate are expected to sign on to the bills requiring background checks on the vast majority of private gun transfers and allowing the FBI at least ten business days to conduct those checks, getting ten Republicans to go along is going to be a challenge.


In fact, as The Hill reports, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, who teamed up with Sen. Joe Manchin on a background check bill in 2013 that failed to pass the Senate, says the House measures that passed last week are too broad to earn his support. Toomey says that he still supports requiring background checks for all sales online and at gun shows, but the current language goes too far. That’s bad news for gun control activists, but they’re still hard at work twisting arms.

Some Senate Democrats say they’re already holding conversations with Republicans.

“I’m talking to senators across the aisle, but the real difference-makers in this debate are the survivors, students, and family members who have made this issue a movement,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told The Hill about his plan for getting Republican support.

“The most powerful advocates for change are the people who have personal stories to share about how a background check could have saved someone they love — that’s who my Republican colleagues have to answer to,” he added.

The NRA’s weakened state is also adding optimism to gun control advocates.

The once powerful pro-gun lobbying group filed for bankruptcy and announced in January that it will reincorporate in Texas and leave New York. It’s also facing a civil suit from New York Attorney General Letitia James (D).


The biggest problem for gun control activists in terms of convincing ten Republican senators to go along is that the two pieces of legislation are aimed squarely at legal gun owners, not the criminals who are fueling the increasing violence in many U.S. cities. The emotional rhetoric about the “need” for background checks doesn’t change the fact that criminals aren’t going to follow this law, any more than they follow the laws forbidding murder, carjackings, and home invasions.

The biggest advantage that gun control activists have, on the other hand, is the fact that universal background checks poll well with the general public, though I believe much of that has to do with a lack of understanding about the intricacies of the legislation. It’s one thing to say that you think all gun sales should go through a background check. It’s something else entirely to say that you believe that your neighbor should go to federal prison for loaning a gun to his cousin to go hunting for a few weeks.

Schumer says he wants to act quickly on the gun control bills, but if he were to bring the measures to the floor of the Senate today there’s no way the legislation would get the 60 votes needed for passage. In fact, with Toomey expressing his opposition to the bills in their current form, and Manchin silent (for now) on the bills, the legislation may not even have 50 votes at the moment.


That doesn’t mean that the Senate won’t try to tweak the bills to curry support. In fact, I’d say that’s a near certainty. It’s up to gun owners and Second Amendment supporters to contact their senators and urge them to oppose these measures and to focus their efforts on violent criminals instead of trying to turn law-abiding gun owners into lawbreakers through the restrictive and burdensome background check bills that cleared the House last week.


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