By Larry Keane
Memories are short in Washington, D.C. That is, at least, when it’s convenient for a presidential bid.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) visited New Hampshire voters last week, trying to make her mark in a crowded Democratic primary field. As a tactic, she decided to demonize firearms manufacturers. We’re not going to stay quiet.
Facts be damned. The junior senator from New York went full bore, leveling unfounded accusations, issuing factually nonsensical indictments and using the familiar buzz words of revisionist history that ring bells for those politicians seeking to burnish their gun-control bona fides with voters they can confuse.
And Now for Something Completely False
“Unfortunately, because the gun manufacturers only care about gun sales, they oppose the common sense reform that can save lives,” Sen. Gillibrand told her audience. “They want to oppose universal background checks because they want to sell an assault rifle to a teenager in a Walmart or to someone on a terror watch list or to someone who is gravely mentally ill with a violent background or to someone with a criminal conviction for a violent crime.”
All of this is patently false.
Sen. Gillibrand was one of 78 co-sponsors of the Fix NICS legislation that overwhelmingly passed the Senate and President Trump signed into law. The federal legislation was modeled on the National Shooting Sports Foundation® initiative of the same name that worked to get states to submit all disqualifying criminal and adjudicated mental health records into the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Checks System (NICS). Let’s be clear: the same gun industry she has chosen to attack to try to attract Democratic primary voters was getting laws changed in 16 states before Congress even took up the matter.
Sen. Gillibrand signed her name to the bill – and voted for – legislation brought by the very manufacturers she claims want to sell guns to everyone. She knows better.
Maybe Sen. Gillibrand has conveniently forgotten that the firearms industry was the originator of the point-of-sale instant background check, to ensure that only those who could be legally entrusted to possess a gun could buy them.
The senator also should know that so-called universal background checks are aimed at private gun sales, not the sales by retailers to private citizens that are already subject to background checks. The truth is she wants to make illegal the transfer of firearms between private parties. The firearms industry, however, cannot support making a criminal of an individual selling a friend a keepsake firearm or lending a shotgun for a duck hunt.
Trafficking in Untruth
The senator’s end-run on the truth didn’t stop there, though.
“They want to sell those things, no matter what, to anybody,” Sen. Gillibrand continued. “It is why they will not do common sense things like have an anti-trafficking law. In a state like New York, our number one problem is guns used in crimes get trafficked from out of state right into the hands of gang members. They will not support an anti-federal gun trafficking law.”
The senator should have a staffer call ATF or the Department of Justice. Federal laws now on the books already cover those offenses. We bring to the Senator’s attention this case from less than a year ago involving the arrests of three individuals attempting to move 40 guns from Virginia to, you guessed it, her state of New York. The guns were recovered on the street.
Moreover, Department of Justice surveys shows guns used in crimes are obtained through theft and the black market. It’s another reason her quest for a universal background check bill is ill-conceived. Criminals aren’t stopping for background checks when they steal dozens of guns at a time in smash-and-grab thefts.
Those thefts are trending down, the rapid response and continuing cooperation between federal and regional law enforcement assisted by a highly cooperative industry making that possible. Operation Secure Store®, a partnership between ATF and the firearms industry to help retailers improve security and reduce thefts from their stores, is contributing to this effort.
No Co-sponsorship for FFL Protection Act
More can be done. Sen. Gillibrand had a chance in the last Congress to co-sponsor the Federal Firearms Licensee Protection Act, S. 1854, introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). It would have set a minimum sentence of three years for burglaries of firearms retailers and five years for robberies. The firearms industry supported this legislation because we know stolen guns move onward for use in other crimes. This legislation is still a priority for the firearms industry, but not for Sen. Gillibrand, apparently. She’s yet to agree to sign on to a bill that would take and keep gun traffickers off the street.
At one time, Sen. Gillibrand supported gun manufacturers. A decade ago, she announced she kept “two guns under her bed.” While not the wisest storage option, she was aligning herself with law-abiding gun owners. That changed for her when faced with political headwinds and rising ambitions. More recently, she said she’s embarrassed by her previous stance.
While memories are short in Washington D.C., the rest of America remembers.
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel at National Shooting Sports Foundation