NRA welcomes ACLU to gun debate, shares ‘significant concerns’ with Reid bill

Vince Coglianese Editorial Director
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The National Rifle Association has found an unlikely partner in the American Civil Liberties Union as both group’s vocalize concerns with key provisions in Sen. Harry Reid’s gun control legislation.

The two organizations have little in common — with the NRA considered an arm of the political right and the ACLU of the left — but when it comes to concerns about so-called universal background checks, the two groups are singing a similar tune.

“We’ve been saying for decades that some of these gun control proposals have significant detrimental effects toward the civil liberties of Americans,” NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told TheDC Thursday, “and it’s heartening to see a group [the ACLU] that’s dedicated to preserving the civil liberties of Americans taking note of that and expressing their concerns.”

In an exclusive interview published Thursday by The Daily Caller, the ACLU’s Chris Calabrese revealed his organization’s major objections to Reid’s bill, which is set to be brought to the Senate floor in mid-April.

First, “it treats the records for private purchases very differently than purchases made through licensed sellers,” Calabrese said, emphasizing that the law would mandate record keeping of private gun sales, a practice the ACLU objects to.

“Once you no longer need the information, you should destroy it. Information collected for one purpose shouldn’t be used for another purpose,” Calabrese said, warning that a national gun registry — which President Obama has regularly denied pursuing — could be “a second step.”

That’s a concern the NRA shares.

“We don’t think there’s a need to maintain records of law-abiding gun owners,” Arulanandam told TheDC. “We have no problems with the federal government maintaining a database of criminals and people with mental health problems who shouldn’t have access to guns.”

The ACLU is also concerned that Reid’s bill too broadly defines a gun “transfer,” creating a potential “criminal justice trap where a lawful gun owner who wants to obey the law inadvertently runs afoul of the criminal law,” Calabrese told TheDC.

Again, the NRA agrees.

“[If] one person wants to sell his lifelong friend a gun,” Arulanandam suggested, “now it [the Reid legislation] basically makes them into criminals if you don’t involve the federal government in the process.”

In an interview on Fox News Channel’s America Live Thursday afternoon, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre echoed his spokesman’s warnings.

“You’re going to end up with 100 million law-abiding people paying fees, paying taxes, being inconvenienced, affecting no criminals, simply lining up all the good people and putting their name in a registry,” LaPierre told Fox’s Megyn Kelly.

Of course, the ACLU and the NRA approach the Democratic gun legislation from very different positions, with the ACLU focused on privacy threats and the NRA on the expansion of gun rights.

For instance, the ACLU is careful to note that they don’t explicitly oppose universal background checks while the NRA is fiercely opposed.

But at the moment, the two groups are sharing a couple square feet of common ground that is sure the worry Senate lawmakers looking to push ahead with Reid’s bill.

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