The Big NRA Flip-Flop On Background Checks

You know, I had premonitions of this story, thinking: Didn’t the NRA used to support universal background checks as the alternative to every gun control measure? Between deadline pressures and the fear that I was having a senior moment, I didn’t follow it up. But now, via TPM’s Evan McMorris-Santoro, we have a former NRA president acknowledging that used to be the organization’s position not that very long ago, but has “changed its mind”:

The former president of the National Rifle Association told CNN Thursday night that the group has changed its mind on universal background checks. Back in 1999, after the Columbine school shooting, the NRA actually ran ads saying “it’s reasonable to provide for instant background checks at gun shows, just like gun stores and pawn shops.”

After last month’s school massacre in Newtown, Conn., the group has sounded a different note. Universal background checks are a waste of time at best and a “federal nightmare” that would lead to confiscation at worst, NRA leaders have said recently.

On CNN, former NRA President Sandy Froman admitted that the group dramatically changed its tune on universal background checks — which gun control advocates have said are their number one post-Newtown goal — and explained the reason was that the NRA now sees expanded background checks as totally ineffective.

“Yes, the NRA has changed its position,” Froman said. “And the reason it’s changed its position is because the system doesn’t work. The (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) is not working now. We have to get that working before we can add any more checks to that system. It’s already overburdened. In Colorado, I know it takes 10 — 10 days to do an instant check.”

So why not fix the system? If the NRA’s basic position is its members are law-abiding citizens who have no reason to fear background checks, why is it a problem?

Current NRA President David Keene echoed those concerns at a meeting with reporters Thursday while explaining his group’s opposition to expanded background checks. But he also sounded a more ominous note, warning that a universal background check infrastructure was possibly a first step toward a dismantling of Second Amendment rights.

“One of the reasons we’re fearful of a system like that is because we have been and continue to be and will continue to be very opposed to any kind of national gun registry system,” Keene told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor-sponsored breakfast. “For several reasons. The historic reason of course is that is a precursor in many cases to confiscation.”

So boil off the evasions, and we’re right back to the insane idea that Barack Obama is part of, a front for, or a precursor to, a totalitarian regime, and that “patriots” need the right to keep their military-style weapons on hand in case the day arrives when it’s time to start killing cops and members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Somebody with access to these people needs to very directly ask them their own personal indicators for when it’s time to start the blood-letting.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.