“I agree: it’s not a perfect bill.” Second Amendment Foundation founder Alan Gottleib admits, referring to the Manchin-Toomey “compromise” on firearms background checks moving towards a Senate vote. “But it gives us a chance to make gains we couldn’t make in ten years. Maybe not ever.” In a telephone interview with TTAG, Gottleib did his level best to “sell” the Manchin-Toomey bill to skeptical gun owners—who’ve grown increasingly dubious after The Volkh Conspiracy’s recent analysis. Gottleib’s read Kopel’s kvetch regarding provisions for federal gun registries and interstate firearms transportation. The SAF’s main man admits that the bill’s language leaves something to be desired. “We can tweak it after we pass it,” he asserts. “Everything can be fixed [in the House version].” Yes, well, what about that federal gun registry thing . . .
“The government is prohibited from creating a gun registry now, under existing statutes,” Gottleib says. “The Manchin-Toomey amendment creates a penalty for doing so: 15 years in jail. It gives existing laws against a federal gun registry teeth.”
But wait! That’s not all! Gottleib points out that Manchin-Toomey bestows criminal and civil immunity on private sellers who sell a gun to a private buyer who then uses the firearm to commit a crime—provided the sale was conducted after a background check. It’s the same immunity that currently covers gun dealers and manufacturers.
Now would you support it? Well don’t answer! Gottleib says the Machin-Toomey Amendment restores veterans gun rights, permanently and explicitly removing the presumption of ineligibility. And it opens the doors to the interstate sale of handguns, with all the free market benefits that would bring.
So you get a severe penalty for officials who dare create a federal gun registry, immunity from prosecution for background checked private sales and more protection for veterans’ gun rights. But wait! If you support it, Alan reckons non-violent felons will also get their gun rights back. “There’s a definite deal, an agreement between Manchin and Reid that would make that happen.”
So . . . what about national reciprocity? Alan pauses almost imperceptibly. “There will be an amendment. I’m not sure that would pass,” he says, sounding sure it wouldn’t. Which could be a deal killer for a lot of gun guys who know that national reciprocity would be the death knell for states with a de facto concealed carry ban (e.g., New York and New Jersey).
Alan will have none of that defeatist talk, returning to his theme that something must be done now because Americans want something to be done now—creating an opportunity for gun rights.
“That 90 percent figure of Americans supporting background checks [after Newtown] is probably right—even though if you ask people if it’s going to work, to do anything to reduce violence, they know it won’t. I agree it’s not going to work. But it’s a window of opportunity for us.”
So why doesn’t the NRA support Manchin-Toomey?
“The NRA’s not willing to do anything because the other side is so Looney Tunes,” Gottleib says. “It’s like the right to life debate. The Pro-Choice side support partial birth abortions, which makes them look crazy. The Right To Life side insist that women who’ve been raped must have the baby, which makes them look crazy.
“Same thing here. There is no middle ground for the NRA . . . If they don’t do what can be done, they’ll win the battle but lose the war. I don’t want to lose the God damn war.”