No kidding, although Senate Judiciary chair Pat Leahy is kidding himself in other ways. On C-SPAN’s Newsmakers yesterday, Leahy lamented the failure of the Senate to pass an expansion of background-check requirements for firearms purchases, which polls showed had widespread support. Thanks to the demagoguery in the debate, Leahy said, the bill has no chance of passage now (via Andrew Johnson at The Corner):
One leading Democratic senator believes that Michael Bloomberg’s gun-control efforts did more harm than good. “Unfortunately, you have some on the left like the mayor of New York City, who actually didn’t help a bit with his ads,” said Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
“He actually turned off some people that we might have gotten for supporters,” he told C-SPAN’s Newsmakers on Sunday. …
Leahy also ruled out the possibility of the Senate’s passing a background-check bill anytime soon, saying that “it is not going to get through now.” He blamed the “far Right” for holding up such measures based on the belief that “the Second Amendment allows us to have anything.”
The last bit is absurd. No one pushed to eliminate background checks on retail sales this year, for instance, and no one demanded that automatic weapons be fully legalized, either. The objection to expansion of background checks arose over three main issues. First, it was non-responsive to the crimes used to push the bill forward; the Newtown shooter had been denied a purchase on the basis of a background check, and stole the weapons from his mother instead. Second, the proposed expansion of background checks would have applied to transfers between family members as well as private sales, creating what some felt to be needless complications for a harmless transaction. Third, gun-rights activists feared that the paper trails would be used by the government to create a firearms registry. The bill specifically outlawed that — but then the NSA scandal on data collection arose, followed by today’s revelation about the DEA, along with the Obama administration’s decisions to simply ignore statutory law it doesn’t like in ObamaCare (including one coming up to rescue Congress). There isn’t much reason to trust that the DoJ under Obama would follow that statute any more conscientiously than one in another bill they actually like.
Other than that, though, Leahy’s right, but he doesn’t go far enough. The White House and its supporters immediately began demonizing gun owners and Second Amendment activists in the wake of the Newtown shooting in an attempt to steamroller gun-control legislation that went far beyond an expansion of background checks. They demanded a so-called “assault weapons” ban that didn’t work the first time around, and some Democrats hinted at going even farther than that. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo demanded and received a limit on magazine capacity that would have disarmed law enforcement in the state. It’s no small wonder that gun owners reacted by opposing everything.
Had the Obama administration and Leahy’s other allies focused just on background checks from the beginning and tried to work with opponents rather than demonizing them, they might have won a victory on some expansion of background checks. Bloomberg is a large part of why they failed, but he’s not the only reason.