Former President Bill Clinton, while suggesting that another push for gun control legislation might succeed, faulted the National Rifle Association for convincing “country” people that “there’s this big, conspiratorial federal government” plan to confiscate firearms.
“What’s going on is that these organized special interest groups don’t want anything done because it’s a big source of their money to terrify people living out in the country that there’s this big, conspiratorial federal government trying to take their guns away,” Clinton said on Morning Joe. “I think if you could get a clear-headed vote on the issue standing alone, the overwhelming majority of Americans in every state would be for it.”
The background check debate did turn into a proxy fight about the idea of a national gun registry, in part because of language in the legislation reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee would have given Attorney General Eric Holder the option of doing so.
“One of the provisions we expect to see in the [final] bill based on what we saw in the Judiciary Committee, on which I sit, would allow the Attorney General of the United States to promulgate regulations that could lead to a national registry system for guns,” Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said on the Senate floor in April. Gun owners fear that a registry could be used if a later government decided to confiscate guns, as has happened in other countries. (That provision was dropped from the Toomey-Manchin proposal.)
“Government registration of firearms presents a threat to our 2nd Amendment rights,” Lee also said in a press release. “Such a registry would be no less offensive than one monitoring how individual citizens exercise their rights to free speech, association, religion, or any other constitutional right.”
In the time that has elapsed between Lee’s comments in April and Clinton’s comments today, reports have emerged that some government agencies do monitor how Americans exercise those other rights. The IRS has apologized for targeting Tea Party groups for extra auditing. Agency officials have even asked a pro-life Christian group to “detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers,” according to Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill.
More recently, the major intelligence leak revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) monitors the phone records of Americans nationally to identify who is communicating with terrorists overseas — a story that might bother people less if not for the IRS story, new polling seems to suggest.
“Fifty-seven percent of voters nationwide believe it is likely the NSA data will be used by other government agencies to harass political opponents,” Rasmussen reports today. Pollster John Zogby told The Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard that of all the recent issues, “the National Security Agency invasion of privacy issue is in the forefront, stalling the president’s agenda.”
Even so, Clinton suggested that the Senate revive the gun legislation. “I just remember when they didn’t get their 60 votes that [Republican] Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said that she thought with a little tweaking on individual gun sales, they could bring it up again and get their 60 votes,” he said.