About this time last year I wrote on the National Reciprocity Bill and where it stood. You can find that information here. Since then, there has been some newsworthy movement.
In early December, before completing the tax overhaul legislation, the US House passed two important votes for National Reciprocity. First, the House amended the clean National Reciprocity Bill by attaching the “Fix NICS” Bill. Second, the House passed the combined Bill (H.R.38) and sent the same to the Senate.
“Fix NICS” is bipartisan legislation supported by the NRA. It gained traction after the Texas church shooting in which the perpetrator was statutorily barred from owning firearms due to criminal domestic violence convictions during his time in the Air force. The Air Force failed to properly submit this information to the FBI NICS system and the perpetrator passed a Federal Background check and purchased a firearm.
Supporters of this legislation labor under the delusion that the broken NICS system would work if we only entered more data into the system. This legislation creates a binding mandate on all Federal Agencies, and increases the bribes available to state agencies, to increase reporting into the NICS system. There are several issues with this, both in theory and in practice, but such is outside the scope of this article.
For our purposes, we should consider the “Fix NICS” language of the Bill a compromise to attract Democrat votes. If it fails at that, then it represents ground given with no compensating gain.
Who voted to pass the Bill?
On December 6th, the combined Bill passed the House by a vote of 231 to 198. Of the 231 Ayes, 225 were cast by Republicans and 6 by Democrats. Of the 198 Noes, 184 were cast by Democrats and 14 by Republicans.
The six Democrats who joined the Republicans in support of the Bill were Representatives Bishop (GA), Cuellar (TX), Gonzalez (TX), Kind (WI), Peterson (MN), and Schrader (OR). Many of these Democrats hail from Southern states, known to be more conservative, or represent themselves as ‘conservative Democrats.’ It appears that “Fix NICS” language did not garner the support that some claimed it would among the rank-and-file Democrats of the House.
If the Democrats that supported the Bill were already sympathetic with conservative measures, such as protecting second amendment rights, it is worth pondering how many Republican votes may have been lost by the “Fix NICS” language. The 14 Republicans that voted against the Bill are: Amash (MI), Buck (CO), Costello (PA), Curbelo (FL), Donovan (NY), Fitzpatrick (PA), Gohmert (TX), King (NY), Lance (NJ), Massie (KY), Meehan (PA), Ros-Lehtinen (FL), Roskam (IL), Smith (NJ).
Of these, Buck and Gohmert were originally sponsors of National Reciprocity and Amash and Massie, out spoken conservatives, made it known that their support was withheld from the combined Bill due to the “Fix NICS” language. The remaining Republicans are mostly from the Northern states which trend liberal. These votes may have already been lost.
When all is considered, it appears that the “Fix NICS” language garnered in net less than a dozen votes; perhaps as few as two. Meanwhile, the Bill passed with a margin of 33 votes. With these numbers, the “Fix NICS” language appears as an unnecessary compromise that did not cause liberals to support the Bill (unless you count neo-conservatives.)
Headwinds in the Senate
H.R. 38 now proceeds to the Senate where it faces stiff opposition. Even though darling Democrats Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein are sponsors of the Senate “Fix NICS” Bill, they have sworn that there will be no Democratic support for the combined “Fix NICS” and National Reciprocity bill.
This appears to be holding true. Of the 39 co-sponsors of the Senate National Reciprocity Bill, not a single one is a Democrat. The question for the Democrats is: Will some of the 17 supporters of the Senate “Fix NICS” Bill support a combined bill? If Schumer and Feinstein have their way this support will not be forthcoming.
In addition to the Democrat opposition, it is believed that Republicans John McCain and Susan Collins will also oppose the Bill. After the Republican loss in Alabama, this leaves only 49 Republicans to support the legislation. The chances of this Bill passing under these odds is very slim to non-existent.
Support and Opposition out of Government
National Reciprocity was being trumpeted by two of the major pro-gun organization in America. Gun Owners of America sent post cards to Representatives, and The National Rifle Association encouraged the sending of emails.
However, the introduction of the “Fix NICS” language caused The Gun Owners of America to pull their support from the Bill. In addition to this new found opposition, the National Association for Gun Rights has always opposed National Reciprocity because of the implications for Federalism; i.e. the idea that the governance within the states should fall entirely upon the states.
The fears regarding Federalism are legitimate for such legislation goes against the original meaning of our Constitution. Unfortunately that meaning is so little acknowledged and respected, and so largely ignored, that another Federal power grab, such as National Reciprocity, is likely to make little difference to the health of our Federal Republic.
In addition to the opposition from pro-gun groups, there is expected opposition from anti-gun organizations such as Mom’s Demand Action. These groups systematically oppose any legislation which decreases firearm regulations.
National Reciprocity has been a Republican ambition for a decade, and as many times before, the House has passed a Bill this session. However, in doing so they muddied the waters by introducing “Fix NICS” language into the Bill. This compromise, meant to garner Democrat support, did little to help the Bill in the House.
It remains to be seen what support this compromise will garner from Senate Democrats. Without Democrat support, passing this bill will not occur this session.