Clarence Page: Signs that the NRA is losing

BY CLARENCE PAGE Published: March 1, 2013
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Now that they're facing Washington's first serious push for new gun violence prevention laws since the Columbine massacre, gun lobbyists are grasping at straws — as in “straw” purchases.

That's the slang for someone who legally buys a firearm from a licensed gun dealer, then sells it to someone whose criminal or mental health record prohibits them from making a legal purchase.

The National Rifle Association's official position favors prosecuting straw purchases, but defends allowing the same sale without background checks from private dealers at gun shows.

Back in the 1990s, you may recall, Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's CEO, supported universal background checks for all gun purchasers. “No exceptions,” he said. Now the organization has gone to war against background checks, calling the current push in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre “a thinly veiled national gun registration scheme.”

As if that were a bad thing. It is ridiculous to require licenses for cars but not for guns. Yet while all states require licenses for cars, the federal government prohibits itself, at the NRA's urging, from keeping a national registry of gun owners.

Short of that, most of the country, including many gun owners in recent surveys, favor background checks as a reasonable requirement for people who want to purchase firearms.

Why wouldn't reasonable gun owners want to keep firearms out of the hands of people whose criminal or mental health records make them most likely to give all gun owners a bad name?

Besides, even in today's fever pitch for gun violence prevention after the Newtown school massacre in Connecticut, most Americans have no appetite for actions that would confiscate the private property of law-abiding citizens, even when that private property is a firearm.

Yet the NRA barely sees any daylight between background checks and a national gun registry, which it sees as only a teeny, tiny baby-step away from national gun confiscation.