Like certain other TV networks, CNN likes gun control supporters. For more than a year, it allowed Piers Morgan to relentlessly and viciously attack the Second Amendment and anyone who supports it, until Morgan’s perennially low-rated show had cost the network so much in lost advertising revenue that keeping him on the air was no longer financially sustainable.
As noted in the previous Alert story, CNN recently made the decision to cut “Piers Morgan Live” from its lineup. However, from the network’s perspective, the problem was the messenger, not the message.
So, this week, with Morgan on the way out, CNN teamed with another anti-gun messenger—Sarah Brady, chairwoman of the anti-gun Brady Campaign–to promote federal legislation that would require a background check, through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), on anyone who acquires a firearm from someone who is not a firearm dealer. Mrs. Brady was on CNN and wrote an opinion piece for CNN’s website, because today is the 20-year anniversary of the Brady Act, which created NICS.
It’s funny how things change, however. The Brady Campaign originally opposed NICS.
A little history is in order. The Brady Campaign started out in 1974 as the National Council to Control Handguns (NCCH), and made no attempt to conceal the fact that as far as it was concerned, “Control” meant “Ban.” In 1976, the group’s then-leader, Nelson Shields, stated that the group envisioned a three-part plan to ban handguns, and the first part of the plan was to slow down handgun sales.
NCCH renamed itself Handgun Control, Inc. (HCI), in 1979, notwithstanding its claim that the name change occurred in 1980. A decade later, HCI was still trying to slow down handgun sales, and figured that the way to do it was with a waiting period.
While Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush were in the White House, waiting period legislation stalled. By 1993, however, gun control supporter Bill Clinton was president, and to help their party’s leader, many Democrats suddenly began supporting legislation proposing to allow state and local law enforcement officials to delay handgun purchases for up to five days.
Congress ultimately passed the legislation, named the “Brady Bill”, but before it did so it approved an amendment by Rep. George Gekas (R-Pa.), requiring the waiting period provisions to end after five years, in favor of what we now know as NICS. HCI opposed the amendment vigorously.
Meanwhile, anti-gun groups had been undergoing a change in one aspect of their thinking. Realizing Americans didn’t take kindly to the word “control,” but that practically everyone is opposed to arbitrary “violence,” the National Coalition to Ban Handguns (NCBH) renamed itself the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence in 1989, the New Right Watch (consisting of a former NCBH and Amnesty International activist and one or two colleagues) renamed itself theViolence Policy Center in 1989 or 1990, gun control supporters began referring to gun control as “gun safety” or “gunviolence legislation,” HCI renamed itself the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in 2001, and a handful of anti-gun lawyers in San Francisco formed themselves as the Legal Community to Prevent Gun Violence, then, realizing that “community” was a bit of an exaggeration, renamed themselves Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
The Brady Campaign, which initially opposed NICS, now calls NICS checks “Brady checks,” and proposes that they be applied to people who purchase firearms from people who are not firearm dealers.
The reason for the shift brings us to the second part of the three-part plan that NCCH outlined in 1976: registration, to be followed by the final step, prohibiting handgun ownership. Registration might not be politically possible right now. But gun control supporters understand that if all firearm transactions could be run through NICS, and subsequently all NICS check data could be kept by the federal government indefinitely and such data be made to include the make, model and serial number of firearms purchased, over time, a registry of firearm ownership could be established.
Other than the fact that today is the Brady Act’s anniversary, now is not a very good time for gun control advocates to be campaigning for more gun control, however. The FBI’s preliminary crime report for the first half of 2013 suggests that the nation’s murder rate has fallen to a point lower than any time since the 1950s, and its month-by-month NICS report shows that the decrease in crime has coincided with a dramatic increase in firearm purchases. Further, Americans’ zeal to pass gun control laws is exceptionally low, and a recent Gallup poll shows that the country’s overall dissatisfaction with U.S. gun laws and policies has increased to 55 percent this year (up from 51 percent last year), but the increase came largely from Americans who say that gun laws are too strict.
In the piece she wrote for CNN, Mrs. Brady said “a lot has changed over the past two decades, and people who wouldn’t pass a background check have found other ways to procure guns easily through unlicensed sales at gun shows or on the Internet, where background checks are not required.” Contradicting Mrs. Brady, federal studies show that criminals still tend to get guns like they always have: by stealing them, buying them on the black market, or getting friends and family members who can pass background checks to buy guns for them–reasons why expanding the background check requirement makes no sense from a crime prevention perspective.
A Washington Post blogger, Jamie Fuller, also noted that things have changed over the last 20 years, but did a better job of describing the changes than Mrs. Brady. Over the last 20 years, Fuller pointed out, support for gun control has decreased, support for protecting the individual right to arms has increased, gun control restrictions have been reduced, and the firearm murder rate has been cut in half. Fuller didn’t mention it, but probably should have, that Americans bought over 120 million firearms over the same period.