Lumping these two gun bills together solves nothing

There are two bits of Second Amendment business moving through Congress right now, both of which we’ve discussed here before. One is the concealed carry reciprocity legislation which was scheduled for a vote today. The other is a measure designed to strengthen the instant background check system by ensuring that the military supplies violent crime information involving service members and encouraging states to be more thorough in their reporting. These are both initiatives which are worthy of support.

Unfortunately, House Republicans have unexpectedly moved to tie the two bills together. And even if it does manage to make it out of the House it’s going to face more complications in the Senate. (Washington Post)

Rare bipartisan consensus around legislation to improve the national background check system for gun purchases is in jeopardy after House Republicans linked the measure to a bill allowing gun owners to carry concealed weapons across state lines.

The House is expected to vote and pass the combination bill Wednesday over the objections of House Democrats, who accused Republicans of “trickery” and “sabotage” in tying the background checks bill to a concealed-carry measure the National Rifle Association called its “highest legislative priority.”

In the Senate, Democrats have labeled the concealed-carry legislation a nonstarter, while leading Senate Republicans cautioned that pairing the bills is a recipe for the demise of both.

“When you put them together, it makes it harder for us to do what we can do, and can do now,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), the Senate’s No. 2 Republican and a co-author of the background checks legislation. “I want to separate those two out, get the “fix NICS” bill passed, and hopefully save some lives.”

At first glance this probably looks like just another case of Washington horse-trading, but that’s really the heart of the problem. We so often wind up with pieces of legislation that are festooned with unrelated amendments and poison pills to the point where nobody from either party feels they can vote for them. (This is likely to kill the budget deal yet again this week unless the logjam breaks.) In a more civil environment, one might expect that each proposal could be judged on its own merits and either succeed or fail.

The NICS bill is a solid measure which enjoys bipartisan support. This isn’t some new form of gun control, but rather an improvement to measures which have already been approved by the vast majority of gun owners, conservatives and even the NRA. Passing it not only has a chance to keep more felons from improperly obtaining firearms, but would serve as a powerful counter to the constant liberal arguments that the GOP is unwilling to consider any discussion on guns. It should pass easily on its own.

The reciprocity bill was always going to be a tougher lift because liberals in the Senate will feel free to vote against it at no political cost to themselves while giving them yet another target to fundraise on. But there are plenty of Democratic senators from red or purple states who represent voters who will view this measure quite favorably. Enough legwork could still be able to get that bill onto the President’s desk, and if not there’s one tough vote that they’ll have to answer for in the next election. Chuck Schumer may call it a non-starter, but unless he takes back the Majority Leader’s office he doesn’t set the legislative agenda.

Lashing the bills together gives some members from both sides an excuse to vote against the combined measure. These are two bills which should be able to stand on their own and they should be voted on as such.