Democrats, NRA Reach Deal on Background-Check Bill

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    Democrats, NRA Reach Deal on Background-Check Bill

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    Democrats, NRA Reach Deal on Background-Check Bill

    By Jonathan Weisman
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Sunday, June 10, 2007; Page A02

    Senior Democrats have reached agreement with the National Rifle Association on what could be the first federal gun-control legislation since 1994, a measure to significantly strengthen the national system that checks the backgrounds of gun buyers.

    The sensitive talks began in April, days after a mentally ill gunman killed 32 students and teachers at Virginia Tech University. The shooter, Seung Hui Cho, had been judicially ordered to submit to a psychiatric evaluation, which should have disqualified him from buying handguns. But the state of Virginia never forwarded that information to the federal National Instant Check System (NICS), and the massacre exposed a loophole in the 13-year-old background-check program.

    Under the agreement, participating states would be given monetary enticements for the first time to keep the federal background database up to date, as well as penalties for failing to comply.

    To sign on to the deal, the powerful gun lobby won significant concessions from Democratic negotiators in weeks of painstaking talks. Individuals with minor infractions in their pasts could petition their states to have their names removed from the federal database, and about 83,000 military veterans, put into the system by the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2000 for alleged mental health reasons, would have a chance to clean their records. The federal government would be permanently barred from charging gun buyers or sellers a fee for their background checks. In addition, faulty records such as duplicative names or expunged convictions would have to be scrubbed from the database.

    "The NRA worked diligently with the concerns of gun owners and law enforcement in mind to make a . . . system that's better for gun owners and better for law enforcement," said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), a former NRA board member, who led the talks.

    Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) had been pushing similar legislation for years. But her reputation as a staunch opponent of the gun lobby -- she came to Congress to promote gun control after her husband was gunned down in a massacre on the Long Island Rail Road -- ruined any chance of a deal with the NRA.

    By contrast, this agreement is a marriage of convenience for both sides. Democratic leaders are eager to show that they can respond legislatively to the Virginia Tech rampage, a feat that GOP leaders would not muster after the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado. Meanwhile, the NRA was motivated to show it would not stand in the way of a bill that would not harm law-abiding gun buyers. Even so, it drove a hard bargain to quiet its smaller but more vociferous rival, Gun Owners of America, which has long opposed McCarthy's background-check bill.

    Chris W. Cox, the NRA's chief lobbyist, said yesterday that the organization will strongly support the legislation as written. "We've been on record for decades for keeping firearms out of the hands of the mentally adjudicated. It's not only good policy, it's good politics," he said. But Cox warned that if the legislation becomes a "gun-control wish list" as it moves through Congress, the NRA will withdraw its support and work against the bill.

    The NRA reacted furiously to the last major federal gun-control legislation, a 1994 ban on assault weapons, and that reaction helped sweep Democrats from control of Congress later that year. Vice President Al Gore's embrace of gun-control proposals helped secure his defeat in the presidential election of 2000, and Democratic leaders have been leery of touching the issue ever since.

    This time, Democratic leaders dispatched Dingell and Rep. Rick Boucher (Va.), a pro-gun Democrat who represents Virginia Tech's home town, Blacksburg, to reach a deal. But talks dragged on over issues of constitutionality and questions over how to institute a means to clear names from the system.

    On Friday afternoon, the NRA finally signed off.

    "I've been involved with this legislative effort for years, working to address the shortcomings of NICS. I'm confident that this legislation will do it," Dingell said. "No law will prevent evildoers from doing evil acts, but this law will help ensure that those deemed dangerous by the courts will not be able to purchase a weapon."

    Under the bill, states voluntarily participating in the system would have to file an audit with the U.S. attorney general of all the criminal cases, mental health adjudications and court-ordered drug treatments that had not been filed with the instant-check system. The federal government would then pick up 90 percent of the cost for the states to get up to date within 180 days of the audit.

    Once the attorney general determines that a state has cleared its backlog, the federal government would begin financing all the costs of keeping the system current. If a state's compliance lapses, the attorney general would be authorized to cut federal law enforcement grants, with more draconian aid cuts mandated if noncompliance stretches longer than a year.

    The bill would authorize payments to the states of $250 million a year between 2008 and 2010, when the program would have to be reassessed and reauthorized by Congress.

    Only one state, Vermont, does not participate in the instant-check system, and even with the threatened aid cuts, negotiators expressed confidence that no other state would drop out, given the funding that would be available and the stigma that would be attached to withdrawal.

    "I can't imagine a scenario where a state would drop out, and say what? 'If you're adjudicated schizophrenic, you can buy your guns here'?" asked a Democratic aide involved directly in the negotiations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not cleared to speak to reporters.

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    VIP Member Array SammyIamToday's Avatar
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    Not as bad as I thought when I started reading it. They did get some decent concessions out of them.
    ...He suggested that "every American citizen" should own a rifle and train with it on firing ranges "at every courthouse." -Chesty Puller

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    Oh Yeah! It would have been better that the NRA stayed out of this one and let the Dems do whatever they wanted. </sarcasm>
    You have to make the shot when fire is smoking, people are screaming, dogs are barking, kids are crying and sirens are coming.
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    I'm still suspicious........past history has shown that as this bill progresses, it will be bastardized & morph into something totally different. ( ....name for me ONE time regarding firearm legislation that Congress has done something right? The only time I like them is when they aren't in session!)

    Once amendments are added by the anti's, it will be another AWB along with a registration scheme.........remember who is running both houses of Congress.........Pelosi, Reid, Schumer, Feinstein, Boxer, McCarthy. They are just waiting for a chance to further demonize guns & their owners.......

    They already have had past assertions from the White House that Bush would sign another AWB, if/when it came across his desk. Don't be surprised when this comes back & bites us......
    Quemadmodum gladius neminem occidit, occidentis telum est.-Seneca

    "If you carry a gun, people will call you paranoid. If I have a gun, what do I have to be paranoid about?" -Clint Smith

    "An unarmed man can only flee from evil, and evil is not overcome by fleeing from it." -Jeff Cooper

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    ".....83,000 military veterans, put into the system by the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2000 for alleged mental health reasons, would have a chance to clean their records."

    Can anyone here tell us what this part is about??? Or, where can we look it up? How bad did a vet have to be, or what problem did a vet have to have, to make this list? Why is any vet on this list anyway as these vets have NOT been "adjudicated" by a court of law? How does a vet "clean their records?

    I'm pretty sure I'm not one of the 83,000, but knowing that this happened is upsetting to me!
    "There is no such thing as too much ammo. Unless you're swimming!"

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    Quote Originally Posted by bones View Post
    ".....83,000 military veterans, put into the system by the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2000 for alleged mental health reasons, would have a chance to clean their records."

    Can anyone here tell us what this part is about??? Or, where can we look it up? How bad did a vet have to be, or what problem did a vet have to have, to make this list? Why is any vet on this list anyway as these vets have NOT been "adjudicated" by a court of law? How does a vet "clean their records?

    I'm pretty sure I'm not one of the 83,000, but knowing that this happened is upsetting to me!
    i have the same concerns, but i haven't been able to find out any more information. last time i checked, the VA medical system is in no way a court of law, which is what's required to be adjudicated.

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    Keep in mind that many anti's consider wanting to buy/own/carry a firearm to be a mental disorder. It all depends on who is making the judgement (think attorney general appointed by a liberal president)...

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    "I've been involved with this legislative effort for years, working to address the shortcomings of NICS. I'm confident that this legislation will do it," Dingell said. "No law will prevent evildoers from doing evil acts, but this law will help ensure that those deemed dangerous by the courts will not be able to purchase a weapon."
    Tell me something, congressman:
    Will this law do as good a job at "ensur[ing] that those deemed dangerous by the courts will not be able to purchase a weapon" as well as the laws that bar felons and drug abusers from purchasing weapons from getting theirs?

    I mean, no one has ever stood in the way of seeing to it that felony records are reported for the purpose of barring legal firearm purchases. Does it work? No. The black market supplies them, instead.

    So this new provision will just be feelgood crap that doesn't make anyone safer.

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    VIP Member Array Tom G's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Finely some common sense legislation

    It sounds the democrats are starting to use common sense. I hope they don't screw this up by trying to tac on a bunch of attachments that would screw up the original purpose of this bill. We will find out who the true antis are as this bill progresses.

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    ....name for me ONE time regarding firearm legislation that Congress has done something right?
    The sunset provision of the AWB. In an enviroment so poisoned as we had back then, the sunset provision was a masterpiece of political wormanship. And yes, it sucked that the AWB lasted that long but ten years of it and still the antis could not prove in any way, shape or form that it had an impact on crime. It destroyed lots of other gun banning measures becuase they could not show a result. At the same time it greatly energized all of us into getting downright serious about our rights and being heard.
    You have to make the shot when fire is smoking, people are screaming, dogs are barking, kids are crying and sirens are coming.
    Randy Cain.

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    Signed: Me!

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    Ex Member Array dwolsten's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peacefuljeffrey View Post
    Tell me something, congressman:
    Will this law do as good a job at "ensur[ing] that those deemed dangerous by the courts will not be able to purchase a weapon" as well as the laws that bar felons and drug abusers from purchasing weapons from getting theirs?

    I mean, no one has ever stood in the way of seeing to it that felony records are reported for the purpose of barring legal firearm purchases. Does it work? No. The black market supplies them, instead.

    So this new provision will just be feelgood crap that doesn't make anyone safer.
    I disagree. Just because someone's a nutcase doesn't mean they know how to go about obtaining an illegal weapon, just as I personally would have no idea who to talk to in order to get something like cocaine. (Nor would I have any idea of where to buy an illegal weapon for that matter.)

    In the case of Cho, he was deranged, but he was still just a college student. He wasn't a prior criminal, and certainly didn't have any criminal connections he could buy weapons through. So he got his at a gun shop, legally. If they had been prevented from selling to him, he would have had a hard time finding guns; he would have had to resort to stealing them or something like that, and probably would have been caught (again, he didn't strike me as a competent criminal type).

    This legislation sounds like an improvement over the current state of affairs, I have to say. It makes it harder for wackos to buy weapons legally, but in exchange fixes up the current background check system which apparently had a lot of flaws (veterans being put on it for no good reason, no easy way to petition to get yourself off, etc.) which the NRA wanted fixed.

    As for the "mutation" concern, if that were to happen, wouldn't the NRA simply oppose it? They'd make all sorts of noise: "we came to a good deal, and then they added all these stupid amendments!" I don't think this is much of a danger.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Miggy View Post
    The sunset provision of the AWB. In an enviroment so poisoned as we had back then, the sunset provision was a masterpiece of political wormanship. And yes, it sucked that the AWB lasted that long but ten years of it and still the antis could not prove in any way, shape or form that it had an impact on crime. It destroyed lots of other gun banning measures becuase they could not show a result. At the same time it greatly energized all of us into getting downright serious about our rights and being heard.
    That's not exactly what I would call a whizbang great piece of legislation. It was more of a saving grace that prevented a horrible law from being a cataclysmically horrible law. Not the same as citing a good piece of gun-related congressional legislation.

    Now, even though the antis cannot prove in any way, shape or form that it had an effect on crime, that fact is not really out before the public. It got a minuscule amount of press when a study was published that found that there was no evidence that gun control controls crime.

    The problem is, these days the papers are chock full of specious claims by police chiefs and other numbskulls that "now that President Bush allowed the assault weapons ban to expire, we're finding more and more of these deadly killing machines on the streets."

    I read that kind of garbage constantly. It indicates to me that the "conventional wisdom" is certainly NOT that the AWB did nothing. People are parroting the line that because we don't have it anymore, suddenly the country is flush with deadly assault weapons -- never mind the fact that they could still be obtained all through the "ban."

    No, the public is certainly not being informed that the AWB and other gun controls fail to control crime.

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    Ex Member Array Pete's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bones View Post
    ".....83,000 military veterans, put into the system by the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2000 for alleged mental health reasons, would have a chance to clean their records."

    Can anyone here tell us what this part is about??? Or, where can we look it up? How bad did a vet have to be, or what problem did a vet have to have, to make this list? Why is any vet on this list anyway as these vets have NOT been "adjudicated" by a court of law? How does a vet "clean their records?

    I'm pretty sure I'm not one of the 83,000, but knowing that this happened is upsetting to me!
    PTSD - If you are on record as having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder you are in that 83,000 group.

    I read it online, don't have the link unfortunately...

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    Quote Originally Posted by dwolsten View Post
    In the case of Cho, he was deranged, but he was still just a college student. He wasn't a prior criminal, and certainly didn't have any criminal connections he could buy weapons through. So he got his at a gun shop, legally. If they had been prevented from selling to him, he would have had a hard time finding guns; he would have had to resort to stealing them or something like that, and probably would have been caught (again, he didn't strike me as a competent criminal type).

    I disagree. I don't think that a person has to be a "competent criminal type" to get away with a large number of crimes for every time he's caught. And let's not forget that the first time or two people get caught, often the penalty is some pathetic slap that doesn't put him away for long.

    It doesn't take a criminal genius to break into a house and steal guns. Down here, two morons stole a gun out of the car of a sheriff's deputy, and one of them shot and killed the other in a supposed "accident" in the home.

    Sure, people like you, me, Cho, might not know exactly where to go to get a black market gun -- but THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE do exactly that! Who knows, maybe it's hundreds of thousands, if legal gun owners number in the tens of millions. Please, don't try to convince me that because we might prevent a scant few psychos getting guns with this law that it's that worthwhile an effort given the costs and other possible inconveniences, not to mention the loss of privacy that is possible as it becomes more and more difficult to prevent your medical records from being shared.


    This legislation sounds like an improvement over the current state of affairs, I have to say. It makes it harder for wackos to buy weapons legally, but in exchange fixes up the current background check system which apparently had a lot of flaws (veterans being put on it for no good reason, no easy way to petition to get yourself off, etc.) which the NRA wanted fixed.
    Okay, well that I am in favor of. If people get put on a prohibited list without warrant, I think it should be very easy for them to get the mistake corrected. They should not have to jump through hoops, wait a long time, or wonder how in the world to get it done.

    I'll wait and see. Generally, though, when legislatures touch the subject of guns, it's time to be very very wary.

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    Quote Originally Posted by peacefuljeffrey View Post
    That's not exactly what I would call a whizbang great piece of legislation. It was more of a saving grace that prevented a horrible law from being a cataclysmically horrible law. Not the same as citing a good piece of gun-related congressional legislation.

    Now, even though the antis cannot prove in any way, shape or form that it had an effect on crime, that fact is not really out before the public. It got a minuscule amount of press when a study was published that found that there was no evidence that gun control controls crime.

    The problem is, these days the papers are chock full of specious claims by police chiefs and other numbskulls that "now that President Bush allowed the assault weapons ban to expire, we're finding more and more of these deadly killing machines on the streets."

    I read that kind of garbage constantly. It indicates to me that the "conventional wisdom" is certainly NOT that the AWB did nothing. People are parroting the line that because we don't have it anymore, suddenly the country is flush with deadly assault weapons -- never mind the fact that they could still be obtained all through the "ban."

    No, the public is certainly not being informed that the AWB and other gun controls fail to control crime.
    BUT.... if the sunset was not introduced, we would still be under the damn ban and maybe even worse.

    My point is that sometimes we must work among people that we dislike and see how can we influence their work so the result either becomes less prejudicial or gets sabotaged outright. Again, would you rather have the Dems dictate the whole law without anybody from our side meddling or you want some of our guys screwing with their plans and bring about the least amount of damage?

    And again, we have come a long way after the AWB. Something like the VT massacre would have brought an outright ban on one or more types of firearms and accesories plus even the elimination of some carry laws, instead most attempts have gone out into the ether because more people now that the culprit was not an evil gun but an evil person.

    As much as we would like to eliminate all restrictions tomorrow, it will not happen. Our war is one of attrition, one brick at the time.
    You have to make the shot when fire is smoking, people are screaming, dogs are barking, kids are crying and sirens are coming.
    Randy Cain.

    Ego will kill you. Leave it at home.
    Signed: Me!

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