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Hullabaloo


Monday, February 04, 2013

 
Could gun background checks get through the GOP House?

by David Atkins

If you were to ask me what I thought the chances might be of any gun control legislation making it through the GOP House, I'd be inclined to say "slim to none." But then again, I thought the same thing about John Boehner violating the Hastert rule to push through tax increases on the wealthy and a debt ceiling raise without serious cuts to social services. I didn't think the GOP was weakened and fractured to a point where such a thing could happen and John Boehner could survive as Speaker. I was wrong. One of the few who did get it right was Greg Sargent of the Washington Post. Since I believe in pundit accountability and credit due for those who get it right, I'd be remiss if I didn't give him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the possibility of getting some basic gun control through the House as well. Here's Sargent:

If any proposals in Obama’s gun package are to have any chance of passing the House, he’ll need to win over Republicans like Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia. He represents one of 16 districts held by Republicans that were carried by Obama in 2012 — the swing area of Virginia Beach — potentially making Republicans like him, and others from suburban and swing districts, gettable.

It turns out Rigell does support a key element of Obama’s gun package — in an interview with me, he called on the House GOP leadership to allow it to come to a vote. And Rigell, a gun owner, staunch defender of the Second Amendment, and lifelong NRA member, is seriously considering supporting a second major Obama gun proposal.

Tomorrow, Rigell and a bipartisan group of House members will introduce the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act of 2013, which would stiffen penalties on people who buy firearms for the purpose of transferring them to someone who is prohibited from possessing one, and stiffens penalties for so-called “straw purchasers” who knowingly mislead Federal Firearms Licensees. A similar initiative has been introduced in the Senate, also with bipartisan support, and this idea is a major piece of Obama’s proposal.

The hope is that it will be very hard for the House GOP leadership to oppose a vote on this initiative, because it is widely favored by law enforcement groups and it doesn’t infringe on rights of the law abiding in any way; it only tries to prevent guns from falling into the hands of criminals...

Rigell also said he was open to supporting Obama’s proposal for universal background checks, though he said he hasn’t made a final decision. “I certainly see the merits of that,” he said.

The House GOP leadership has not said whether it will allow votes on either the trafficking or background check proposals. So it needs to be reiterated that these are both no-brainers that don’t infringe on the rights of the law abiding and are supported by law enforcement. Hopefully we’ll soon see more leadership like that shown here by Rep. Rigell from a handful of other House Republicans.

As unlikely as it might seem that these two proposals could ever get through the House, it is premature to write them off as completely dead. And if they both pass, that would constitute passage of two thirds of Obama’s gun control agenda — and would amount to a major achievement, with or without any assault weapons ban.
Again, normally I would say Sargent was being wildly optimistic. But it's also possible that the GOP realizes it's in enough hot water on this issue that something must be done. It won't be a ban on assault weapons, but background checks would be an excellent start.

I don't think it will happen, but I'd love for Greg to prove me wrong once again. If I'm right, this issue will be used across the country to clobber Republicans in 2014. If I'm wrong, then it will mean a Republican Party in full damage control and retrenchment mode.

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