A New – and Old – Plan to Repeal the Brady Instant Registration System
Executive Director, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners
With the recent decision by the U.S.
Supreme Court against the NRA’s suit to destroy Brady names, gun owners
across America must reassess their views of the “Brady Check,” which is
better termed the Brady Instant Registration Check system.
To do that, we have to remember how we got Brady in the first place.
Congress first heard of the Brady Bill, most Republicans and many Democrats
balked at the idea. Gun owners in America weren't likely to accept de
facto gun registration inherent in a bill that forced firearms purchasers to
undergo a background check and created a database.
It was, rightfully so, labeled “registration.”
fact, prior to 1995, support or opposition to Brady was the number one litmus
test issue for every gun owner, organization, and even the NRA. Anyone
claiming to support the Second Amendment was literally required to oppose the
Brady bill. In Colorado, even noted
moderate Sens. Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Hank Brown maintained opposition to
the Brady bill.
before the 1994 General Election, Brady and Handgun Control, Inc. decided it was
time to pass their scheme. They only had one problem: the U.S. Senate did
not have enough votes to shut down a hold (a threatened filibuster) from N.C.
Senator Jesse Helms. A cloture vote -- which shuts down debate and breaks
a filibuster -- takes 60 Senators, meaning 41 Senators can stop the legislation.
NRA knew these numbers quite well and was still publicly opposed to Brady,
though many Beltway insiders suggest the NRA was ready to cave at any point.
And cave they did, when HCI essentially ran a lobbying program on the
NRA, convincing the “gun lobby” that a Brady law was inevitable.
bill was dead -- but the NRA cut the deal to resurrect it.
NRA-ILA contacted then-Minority Leader Bob Dole and signaled the NRA's surrender
on the issue. The NRA would accept the "Instant Check" system
because Brady was inevitable, and the hold would be removed. In the
Congressional poker game, the NRA folded before anyone even had a chance to
assess their hand.
Owners of America (GOA) and a number of real pro-gun organizations told the
NRA that this new “Instant Check” system would register gun owners by the
millions, giving gun-banners the rope they needed to hang us.
The NRA touted the compromise language as a barrier to registration.
Their lawsuit is an admission that their compromises didn’t work.
“Instant Check” system, much touted by the NRA to this day, is the reason
some states have other forms of gun control. Virginia, long considered one
of America's most pro-gun states, passed a "one-gun-a-month" law (or
gun rationing) for one simple reason: the system set up by Brady, implemented in
Virginia with NRA assistance, would handle the information.
One-gun-a-month had failed in Virginia in the past, primarily because it was too
expensive to implement. Once the NRA's Brady system was in place,
one-gun-a-month was easy and relatively cheap.
the Supreme Court ruling that the FBI can keep gun owners’ names, what will
the NRA now tell us about Brady? In
October of 2000, Charlton Heston wrote in Outdoor
Life magazine that the NRA
supported expanding Brady to private sales at gun shows.
Wayne LaPierre recently confirmed this stand on a national morning news
program. If the past is any
indication, the NRA will point to the Supreme Court ruling, shrug, and go about
raising money to “fight gun control.”
that we all know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the federal government is
keeping a database of gun owners and the prohibition on keeping the names
carries no weight, we are back to square one: either repeal Brady, or live with
the database it created -- and the inevitable consequences of a database of gun
owners, confiscation. Californians
didn’t need us to name that consequence, nor did citizens of Canada, Great
Britain, or Australia.
do we repeal the Brady Instant Registration system?
The answer: the same way we could have stopped Brady in the first place.
starting today, every announced, potential, or even likely candidate from
dogcatcher to President must be asked a simple question: if ever faced with a
vote to repeal the Brady Instant Registration system, how will you vote?
there is not going to be a middle ground on this commitment.
And we won’t offer another slick system that supposedly protects the
buyer’s identity. There is no
system that routinely checks backgrounds without the opportunity to log
citizens’ names. If the political
will exists to put in a system that is better, it likely exists to repeal Brady
in its entirety, and go back to prosecuting citizens for real crimes.
states have a prohibition of even questioning a citizens’ right.
In Colorado, our Constitution explicitly states “…the right of no
person to keep and bear arms… shall be called into question.”
Clearly, the framers of Colorado’s Constitution knew what to tell those
who want “reasonable” background checks.
method -- forcing politicians to take a stand – works, as long as groups like
the NRA are not allowed to offer the Neville Chamberlain solution to gun
control. As Winston Churchill put
it, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”
Playing that inside game has gotten gun owners nothing, and given the gun
banners virtually everything they wanted. Appeasing
– sometimes inaccurately called compromising, since compromise means both
parties get something – doesn’t work. Ask
first step isn’t easy: individual activists will have to demand tougher
criteria from the gun groups they support.
If your local grassroots circle of gun owners won’t ask that question
of politicians – “We can’t make these elected officials uncomfortable or
we will lose our access to them” is the usual stated reason to avoid conflict
– then the burden falls on you individually.
In Colorado, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners will continue to use this issue as
a litmus test for support, but there are few groups who will follow suit.
It is also advisable that you get this commitment in writing, as
politicians are adept at denial. RMGO
sends out written surveys to candidates every election cycle, asking tough
questions on every issue. All
returned surveys are public, unlike the NRA-ILA’s softball survey program.
we determine a politician’s views on the issue, what do we do?
We base our support on that position.
might seem rather obvious, but consider our history: gun owners have repeatedly
proven we will support the “lesser of two evils” every time, a tired cry
raised by tyrants who know their position on issues isn’t linked to gun
owners’ support. What’s more
upsetting is that the groups supposedly protecting our rights use the same cry
to support spineless liberals they so readily protect.
Here’s a newsflash: politicians will never adhere to tough positions
when they know it has no bearing on your support.
Pet the puppy after it pees on the carpet, and you’re training the dog
to pee on the carpet. Right now,
gun owners have a very dirty carpet.
gun owners fail to link our support to our public policy goals, we have no one
else but ourselves to blame. We can
expect politicians to move away from our positions: as Colorado’s anti-gun
Republican Governor Bill Owens said of gun owners, “What are they going to do,
far can politicians go awry if we fail in these two simple, yet crucial tasks?
In the 2000 Colorado elections, a sitting State Representative, who lost
his bid for the State Senate, wasn’t willing to sign a pledge to repeal Brady.
That State Representative, now a Republican, was the former Colorado
state chairman of the Libertarian Party.
failed: the Brady Instant Registration system has created the gun owner
registration system we all pledged to oppose to the death.
I suggest we re-learn how to draw the line in the sand, and recommit
ourselves to battle.
Dudley Brown is Executive Director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, Colorado’s largest gun rights group.
Another Option for Dispensing
Blind Identification Database System
A system to prevent both gun owner registration and prohibited firearm sales
by Brian Puckett and Russ Howard