Gun-control opponents won a major victory this week when the Manchin-Toomey bill to expand background checks failed to advance, but a leading lobbyist says the behind-the-scenes wrangling was far more dramatic than the final vote suggested.
The final vote was 54-46 in favor of Manchin-Toomey, but 60 votes were needed to advance the bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid changed his vote at the last moment in a parliamentary move that gives him the right to bring the bill up for consideration again. That leaves a five-vote margin, but Gun Owners of America Chief Counsel Mike Hammond told WND it was actually much closer.
"We didn't win it by six votes. We won it by one vote," he said. "Had the Republicans not provided 41 votes in opposition to that, Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat; Baucus, Montana Democrat; Begich, Alaska Democrat; and Pryor, an Arkansas Democrat, would have all provided the deciding vote to pass it."
In previous interviews, Hammond insisted the the biggest vote was the motion to proceed. Once that happened, Democrats could add other amendments with less resistance. He had been confident gun-control opponents would win that vote as well, but the motion to proceed easily advanced 68-31 once Toomey-Manchin was introduced. So what happened?
"There was an eruption in the senators' luncheon, which was precipitated by Sen. Sue Collins, who was whining because gun groups were running commercials against her in Maine," Hammond said. "As a result, there was just an imbroglio, and a lot of senators decided that they were going to show the gun lobby and vote to go on to the bill."
He said the damage may have already been done, however, because the bill is now on the Senate calendar, and Reid can bring it back anytime he wants.
So how did we go from 68 senators voting to proceed with the bill to only 54 actually supporting it?
"I think (Collins) was able to convince them to vote wrong on cloture on the motion to proceed but not throughout the process. I can tell you that as a result of what happened, as a result of moving to proceed to it, we had a week of nail biting, of excruciating fear as we worked senator by senator to put together the votes necessary to win that," Hammond said.
Hammond is also firing back at President Obama for suggesting that the gun lobby blatantly lied to lawmakers and the public about Manchin-Toomey leading to a national gun registry.
"That's called projection in psychological terms. That means he accuses other people of being guilty of what is, in fact, his own moral deficiencies," Hammond said. "This group of people traveling with Barack Obama were up in Hartford, Conn., the day before, smiling and waving as Gov. (Dan) Malloy signed into law a statewide gun registry and a statewide gun ban which came only precipitously short of confiscation. So having endorsed and loved and claimed victory over gun registration and gun confiscation, they then fly down to Washington, D.C., and the next day they say, 'Oh, no one is talking about confiscation and registration.' I mean, do they think we're stupid?"
The text of Manchin-Toomey contained no explicit language on registration, but Hammond said close scrutiny raised major red flags with him.
"The bill would require a very large number of people, anyone who published an intent to sell a gun. And we all know what "published" means. In libel-slander terms, it means communicated to a single other person. Does it mean published in a newspaper, church newsletter, put up a sign? No one knows. And you can bet it'll be interpreted as broadly as it can conceivably be interpreted," he said.
"So anyone who now comes under the rubric of this has to have a 4473. That's the little file card the gun dealer is going to keep on you when you buy that gun. What the Obama administration is doing is going around from dealer to dealer and copying the content of those 4473s, so they have a list of all the gun owners who bought a gun through that dealer, which from here on out will basically be all gun owners. So if they have that list sitting in regional offices, guess what the slimy Toomey-Manchin language says: You can't consolidate it," Hammond said.
"They don't know anything about computers. The way computers work is it doesn't matter whether the data is sitting in Tucson or whether it's sitting in Washington, D.C. If it's accessible by the push of a computer stroke, it's a national gun registry. So they don't call that a national gun registry, I think for the same reason Satan doesn't like the word sin, but it is," he said.