Our congressional Republicans run away from most opportunities to pass conservative policies. Worse, they squander their few opportunities to pass conservative-leaning legislation that almost all of us can agree on. Case in point? The concealed carry reciprocity bill.
Almost all factions of the GOP believe that there should be universal carry and reciprocity between the states, similar to driver’s licenses. The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (H.R. 38), sponsored by Rep. Richard Hudson, R-NC, is the best reciprocity bill and has 213 co-sponsors. It should have been passed out of the House months ago or even during last Congress. It should already be on the president’s desk. But no.
All of a sudden, the House has agreed to pass the concealed carry bill and voted to send it to the Senate.
So did they suddenly discover common sense? Reason to celebrate? Unfortunately, there is a catch.
The deception from GOP leaders and the NRA: Gun control
The real reason is that they want to pass a parallel gun-control bill. Rather than promoting the need for self-defense, Republicans echo the Democrat messaging that mass shootings should mean more federal laws. No, they have no interest in finding out what really happened in Las Vegas, they just know that we must push gun control. To that end, they agreed to pass a bill (H.R. 4477) out of committee that strengthens the already broken NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System). NICS is already violating the civil rights of veterans. Then GOP leaders attached that provision to the reciprocal carry bill, which passed Wednesday. The strengthened bill would incentivize states to enter more data into the system. This is why several conservatives voted against it.
Ten conservatives voted against the rule to even consider the bill, and more would have joined, had the NRA not threatened to score against them.
Here is the NRA email alert to members:
The entire rule of this bill was dishonest. Many members weren’t even aware of the fact that there was a gun-control provision because it still had the title H.R. 38 — the reciprocity bill — with no mention of the NICS provision (beginning on page 8).
Is it worth it if we get reciprocity? Maybe, but we won’t
You might be asking: Granted, they shouldn’t indiscriminately strengthen the NICS database, but is it worth swallowing this portion of the bill if that is the price we must pay to get concealed carry reciprocity?
That is a valid academic question. But at this point, it is just academic. There is absolutely no commitment in the Senate to pass a reciprocity bill. But the Senate will pass the NICS bill by itself. Thus, why should conservatives agree to support a preemptive surrender on NICS when there is no ironclad commitment to pass any reciprocity bill?
John Cornyn, an ardent co-sponsor of the Senate NICS bill, has made it clear that the main objective is to pass the NICS provision. There is no evidence that by combining the two bills, more Democrats will agree to lend support to concealed carry.
As Business Insider reports, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said that Senator Cornyn, R-Texas, agreed with him to push “Fix NICS” as a stand-alone bill. Meanwhile, he says reciprocity is dead in the Senate.
The problems with “Fix” NICS
Why would we pressure state and federal agencies to add more people to the system when there is already bipartisan recognition that agencies are adding people who should not be on the list, including veterans, without any due process in a court of law?
The Sutherland Springs shooter, Devin Kelley, was kicked out of the Air Force following two counts of domestic abuse. This would have prevented him from legally buying a gun, and of course, his name should have been placed on the list. But passing more legislation augmenting funding and pressure to report all existing categories of ineligibility without due process is wrong. It casts a huge net that includes disabled veterans and seniors deemed incapable of tending to their finances without exclusively targeting the problem of known, but unreported, violent offenders like Kelley.
The bill gives $500 million over five years to the states to mine names of those suspected of any possible criterion for denying them a firearm and placing them into NICS without due process. Federal agencies are also threatened with the loss of bonuses if they fail to comply with the new mandate. The agencies, not the courts of law, will adjudicate individual rights for denials. As someone who strongly opposes the growth of judicial power to super-legislative status, I must say this is one class of cases that is squarely in the wheelhouse of the courts — individual rights under the law. It must be handled by courts, not administrative agencies.
We’ve seen it all before
This is exactly what Obama did with the Social Security Administration and the VA, among other agencies. His action was empowered by a NICS expansion passed at the end of Bush’s presidency, following the Virginia Tech shooting. In the final weeks of Obama’s presidency, he directed the Social Security Administration to monitor all seniors whose finances are managed by a representative payee, essentially deem them mentally incapable of owning a gun, and report their names to NICS. Victims of this government assault could only challenge their designation after being placed on the list.
Republicans were universally outraged over this last-minute decision, as well as some non-conservative disability groups, such as the National Council on Disability. The ACLU lambasted the rule as well. In February of this year, the House and Senate used the Congressional Review Act to nullify the regulation.
But here’s the problem: While the House passed legislation (H.R. 1181) to prevent the VA from doing what the SSA did, the Senate has not agreed to pass this yet. Furthermore, this entire Obama-era violation of civil rights was born out of the 2007 NICS bill that was passed by voice vote.
Guess who championed that Obama-enabling measure as a pro-gun bill when it passed? The NRA.
Why on earth would we pass another bill designed to strengthen the NICS process in general before fixing the existing problems with the VA and the civil rights problems that were caused by the last “fix,” supported by the same people with the same dishonest process and messaging?
The NRA is asserting that opponents of its effort are misleadingly claiming the NICS bill expands categories of people ineligible to own a gun. Nobody credible is asserting that. What opponents of the bill are saying is that this bill will prompt more agencies to add more people under the same existing ambiguous categories that we all claimed to oppose.
Conservatives trust Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the Second Amendment and due process, but what if a Democrat wins in 2020? This bill calls on the attorney general to determine whether a state agency has “achieved substantial compliance with the benchmarks included in the plan.” Even without adding new categories of ineligibility, the existing problems with the VA will now be placed on states. Under a Democrat-controlled DOJ, state agencies will be pressured to add not only known criminals, but also those with disabilities that even the ACLU was concerned about.
In a nutshell: The last NICS “improvement” bill was passed under a Republican president and then was used by a Democrat president to go after seniors and veterans. And now Congress is trying to repeat the process.
The NRA’s flip-flops
In 2008, before people realized the sweeping consequences, the NRA openly bragged about the bill only targeting — in addition to those who are dangerous — someone who “lacks the capacity to manage his own affairs.” When it became clear how this was being abused, the NRA championed the bill earlier this year to countermand that policy. Currently, that same provision still stands as applied to the VA, and the new bill prompts states to strengthen this very policy they once championed but now universally oppose. And they have the impertinence to say this bill is an improvement of NICS? Do they really have any credibility on this issue?
The NRA suggests that this bill actually helps those wrongly placed into NICS by truncating the appeals process. But that is only a moderate fix on the back end once people have already lost their rights without due process. We need a fix on the front end. Though government has the power to limit the gun rights of someone who is a threat to society, the Second Amendment is the most foundational right and requires due process to take it away. Imagine if we placed people on a No Free Speech list without due process and invited them to prove they could have their free speech back after the fact.
In short, this bill will pressure federal agencies and states to place as many names as possible on the list.
Folks, this is just a glimpse into the dishonesty of the GOP and its allies: the enablers of the Left.
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Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.