Just Because You Say It, Doesn’t Make It True: Sinking in the Polls After Opposing Manchin-Toomey
Senator Heller Now Says “I Supported Improving Background Checks”
Actually, when he had the chance, Dean Heller whiffed, voted against strengthening background check system, make it easier for the dangerously mentally ill to get a gun
Pop Quiz: You’re a party-line-toeing politician on the ropes for ignoring the clear wishes of the people you were elected to represent. You just voted to keep the gun show loophole wide open for criminals and the dangerously mentally ill to exploit and for the gun makers to profit from. Your approval ratings are down since October; you read into the polling and see 70% of Nevada voters support background checks, including 54% of Republicans, and that 46% of voters in the state say they're less likely to support you in a future election because you voted against them. What do you do now? What – do – you – do? If you’re Senator Dean Heller, the answer is simple: just start disingenuously telling people you voted to improve background checks and hope they buy it.
“I am an original cosponsor of bipartisan legislation…to strengthen our current background check system and close loopholes related to the mentally ill,” Heller wrote in mass mailing to Nevadans. SEE: Ralston Reports: Dean Heller: Gun control advocate
Heller’s spin is especially intellectually insulting to voters and families impacted by gun violence when considering the Graham-Begich bill actually makes it EASIER for the dangerously mentally ill to get a gun and does nothing to close the loophole in background checks for private sales. No wonder it’s backed by the NRA. SEE FACT SHEET below on the Graham-Begich (S.480) bill. Also SEE Think Progress: NRA Touts Bipartisan Bill To Trick You Into Thinking They Support Background Checks
For Dean Heller to claim he is a leader in preventing gun violence and taking a “common sense approach to preventing unnecessary violence,” while blocking legislation that actually does that, is trampling the memories of those lives taken by gun violence - including 8 kids and teens each and every day.
Consider that under the current background system, “since 1998 the F.B.I. has rejected more than a million would-be sales, and when state-level rejections are factored in the number of denials is closer to two million — usually because the would-be buyers are convicted felons, or fugitives from justice, or mentally ill, among other reasons,” according to the New York Times.
That’s nearly 2 million guns that were kept out of the wrong hands, and lives were saved as a direct result. In fact: In states that require a background check for private handgun sales, 38 percent fewer women are shot to death by their intimate partners; in states that require background checks for all handgun sales, there are 17% fewer firearm aggravated assaults.
Given these facts, it is undeniable that closing the gun show/internet loophole and subjecting more of the millions of guns sold anonymously each year to background checks would keep more guns out of the hands of criminals and save more lives. That’s common sense. It’s logical.
What Senator Heller completely ignores as he touts his new found efforts to prevent gun deaths is the clear reduction in gun violence that would result from expanded background checks in the Manchin-Toomey bill – a bill Heller conveniently omitted in his letter. Heller sides instead with the gun maker lobby that says we should instead ask the law enforcement community to spend an enormous resources and time they will never have chasing after everyone that was stopped from getting a gun by the background check. It’s a classic example of not seeing the forest for the trees.
GRAHAM/BEGICH (S.480) WOULD MAKE IT LEGAL FOR SERIOUSLY MENTALLY ILL PEOPLE TO BUY GUNS
- Bottom Line: Despite its name, the NICS Reporting Improvement Act (S.480), introduced by Senators Graham and Begich, would not improve the gun background check system. In fact, the Graham-Begich bill would effectively eliminate the federal prohibition on gun ownership by seriously mentally ill people. Specifically, it would
- Gut current law by making it legal for the seriously mentally ill to buy and own guns; and
- Invalidate millions of mental health records currently in NICS, the gun background check database.
As result, national law enforcement groups, mental health experts and over 900 mayors oppose the Graham-Begich bill.
- The Graham-Begich bill undermines public safety. The proposal would make our homes, schools and communities less safe by making it legal for people to own and purchase guns who have been:
- Involuntarily committed to psychiatric hospitals, immediately upon release from treatment;
- Found not guilty by reason of insanity in federal court, immediately upon release from involuntary treatment;
- Adjudged to lack the mental capacity to manage their affairs;
- Adjudged to be a danger to themselves or others, unless the danger is shown to be “imminent”; or
- Involuntarily committed by psychiatric hospitals, if they choose not to appeal their commitment.
- The Graham-Begich bill weakens NICS, the gun background check database. Since the Graham-Begich bill would significantly narrow the categories of people prohibited by current law:
- Millions of mental health records in NICS would become invalid, allowing millions of seriously mentally ill individuals to buy guns; and
- It would often be impossible to determine which records to submit to NICS going forward because most state records do not specify whether the danger posed by an individual is “imminent.”
- By contrast, the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013 (S.649) preserves the current prohibition on gun ownership by the seriously mentally ill and encourages states and federal courts to get more records—including mental health records—into NICS.
- A Case In Point: Alice Boland: On February 4, 2013, Boland attempted to kill educators at a prep school in Charleston, South Carolina. She was seriously mentally ill and federally prohibited from buying guns twice over, firstly because she had been found not guilty by reason of insanity (after threatening to kill President George W. Bush) and secondly because she was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital. Because her prohibiting records were not reported to NICS, Boland was able to walk into a gun store and buy the gun she used in the attempted murders this February. Under the Graham-Begich bill, Boland’s rights to purchase and own firearms would have been restored as soon as she was released from treatment. Under S.649, on the other hand, she would remain prohibited and states like South Carolina would be incentivized to submit prohibiting records like hers to NICS.
Stopping the Graham-Begich bill and passing S.649 would help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people like Alice Boland.