The right’s favorite talking point on expanded background checks is pretty straightforward: the popular, bipartisan proposal must be defeated because it’ll create a national gun registry. Reality proves this is the exact opposite of the truth, but the NRA’s allies keep saying it anyway.
Today, in an interesting twist, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) grudgingly acknowledged the truth, only to dismiss it in the next breath. For those who can’t watch clips online, Cruz told Capitol Hill reporters:
“I don’t disagree that on its face, the currently pending legislation does not purport to create a national gun registry. But the Department of Justice has been explicit that when you require background checks for private firearms transactions, the only way to make that effective is through a national gun registry. So if the bill that is pending on the floor of the Senate passed, the next step in the process would be that critics would say, ‘Well this isn’t effective. We don’t know if you’re selling your firearm to someone else unless we know you have your firearm.’
“And in my judgment a federal registry of firearms – the federal government keeping a list of every firearm that is lawfully owned by every law-abiding citizen – would be terrible policy and would be inconsistent with the Constitution.”
So, there is no federal registry. The legislation explicitly prohibits a federal registry. Under the pending bill, anyone even trying to create a federal registry would be a felon, subject to 15 years behind bars. No one has even proposed the possibility of a federal registry. But Cruz and his allies are convinced one will organically evolve to prevent private gun sales, even though the Manchin/Toomey measure targets gun shows and online sales.
In other words, Congress has to kill one idea, because there’s a paranoid fantasy about the possibility of a different idea coming up at some point in the future.
If this sounds familiar, it’s what unhinged critics of the Affordable Care Act said about “death panels.” Sure, there’s nothing in the proposal that would create “death panels,” but if you close one eye, tilt your head, and use your imagination, you’ll see it’s possible to envision a system in which the federal government starts murdering senior citizens.
This is no way for a mature democracy and ostensible superpower to debate public policy.