Forbes columnist Frank Miniter's forthcoming book The Future of the Gun will present a revisionist history of the National Rifle Association's extremism during the legislative battle over guns following the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
According to Regnery, the conservative publisher of Miniter's book, The Future of the Gun, will show how "the radical anti-gun lobby stands between innovation and the American people. Bestselling author Frank Miniter describes amazing breakthroughs waiting to happen in gun technology -- and how gun grabbers threaten to stop progress in its tracks."
A recent excerpt from the book that circulated in conservative media purports to provide one example of alleged obstinacy on the part of gun safety supporters by highlighting how the Obama administration allegedly rejected the NRA's overtures to work together to crack down on illegal guns. But Miniter is misrepresenting the post-Newtown meeting between the administration and the gun lobby.
Conservative media touting Miniter's version of events have also failed to disclose he is employed by the NRA, and that the NRA's proposal to crack down on illegal guns was a "law cleverly written to accomplish practically nothing," according to one centrist think tank.
Miniter Rehabs NRA'S Post-Newtown Obama Administration Meeting
In an August 5 article, The Washington Examiner's Paul Bedard highlighted excerpts from Miniter's book to claim that the Obama administration had squandered a chance to work with the NRA and gun industry trade group the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) to produce a "historic deal." Bedard's article was quickly picked up by The Drudge Report.
Bedard quoted NSSF senior vice president Larry Keane who claimed that gun groups were not invited to the White House and criticized the administration for not working with gun manufacturers and gun groups to "do something" about gun violence:
"If the Obama administration really wants to do something about illegal guns or gun violence, then they'd work with gun manufacturers, the NRA, and the rest of gun-rights groups," said Larry Keane, with the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a leading spokesman for the industry.
He cited several areas the two sides agree on but noted that the gun lobby wasn't invited to White House meetings on the issue. "I wish," he said of joining the sessions with top Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett. "There's a lot we could help them with. But they're not interested in our input."
The excerpt also included the complaint from David Keene, who was president of the NRA at the time of Newtown, that "[t]he Obama administration is treating the gun issue like it's a political race. They want to separate the NRA and treat the NRA like they do a political opponent during a campaign."
But news reports from January 2013 show that the gun lobby was invited to meet with Vice President Joe Biden, who had taken charge of the gun issue, and it was the gun lobby that walked away after a single meeting.
In fact a press release from the NSSF describes how the NSSF, the NRA and other gun organizations agreed to meet with Biden on January 10, 2013. Prior to the meeting an NRA spokesperson told media, "We are sending a representative to hear what they have to say."
The NRA emerged from the meeting enraged. While Biden said, "I thought we had a very straightforward, productive meeting," the NRA released a statement claiming the Obama administration had "an agenda to attack the Second Amendment" and explicitly rejected future collaboration, writing, "[W]e will now take our commitment and meaningful contributions to members of congress [sic] of both parties who are interested in having an honest conversation about what works - and what does not."
Conservative Media Fail To Disclose Miniter's NRA Association
Bedard's Washington Examiner article solely identified Miniter as a "New York Times bestselling author." But Miniter is also the former executive editor and current field editor of American Hunter, which is an NRA publication. Miniter even managed to make a nine minute appearance on the NRA's news show Cam & Company to promote his book without his NRA relationship being disclosed.
Miniter has previously promoted the NRA without disclosing that he is employed by the organization. Simply calling himself "a gun owner," Miniter urged the Obama administration to adopt NRA ideas in a column published at National Review Online one week after Newtown:
Consider what President Barack Obama said in Newtown: "In the coming weeks, I'll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens -- from law enforcement, to mental-health professionals, to parents and educators -- in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have?"
What about engaging gun owners? The National Rifle Association (NRA) estimates there are 100 million gun owners in America.
When an epidemic of drunk driving bloodied our highways, we didn't demonize car owners and pass bans on automobiles. We worked with the American people, stiffened penalties, and had national campaigns explaining the problem. We talked about designated drivers and hotlines for alcoholics. We treated the American people as adults. We showed a good, moral path to follow.
We need to work with gun owners in the same open, honest way. The NRA, for example, has training programs for law enforcement and teaches children what to do if they encounter a gun. The NRA also maintains rules for shooting safely and storing firearms responsibly. The NRA is a large membership organization because of all the good it does. For example, it isn't difficult for anyone to find NRA-certified shooting-safety courses. Just go to nrainstructors.org and use the website's search tool to find courses near you. The NRA Training Department has a network of more than 65,000 instructors, 3,800 coaches, and 1,700 training counselors spread out across the nation. Presumably this has contributed to the fact that gun accidents are rare and have been declining for decades.
Instead of demonizing the NRA, the government should work with it on a national campaign to encourage gun owners to store their guns safely. A trigger lock, for example, prevents the trigger from being squeezed until the lock is removed with a key. Gun owners can also store their guns in safes or in "quick-lock" safety boxes with combination locks. They can store their guns separately from ammunition or with a component (such as the bolt) removed. Current NRA safety training urges that any gun kept only for sporting purposes be rendered temporarily inoperable before it is stored.
The NRA's Proposal To Crack Down On Illegal Guns Was Worthless
Contrary to gun advocates' self-serving claim that they were thwarted in their attempts to work with the administration to crack down on illegal guns, the real story of how illegal guns were addressed after Newtown shows that the NRA actually opposed proposals to stop the illegal trafficking of firearms at every step. The NRA also played a pivotal role in blocking background check legislation that would have prevented felons and other illegal gun possessors from acquiring weapons in private sales.
There is no "direct" federal law that makes gun trafficking a crime. Currently gun traffickers can be charged with lying on the background check form about who the gun's intended owner is, but federal prosecutors are hesitant to devote resources to what would amount to paperwork violations that are difficult to prove under current law.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) took the first step towards a meaningful federal gun trafficking bill following Newtown by sponsoring the Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2013. That bill advanced out of committee and to the Senate floor. Leahy then joined forces with Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Susan Collins (R-ME) and gave concessions to the NRA that weakened the bill in order to craft bipartisan legislation. The result was not as strong as the original proposal, but it would have still created severe penalties for gun trafficking.
The plan was for this proposal to be offered as an amendment while the U.S. Senate voted on legislation to expand background checks to all commercial sales. But before Leahy's amendment could be voted on, the Senate voted on substitute legislation approved by the NRA that included the NRA's version of gun trafficking legislation.
According to centrist think tank Third Way, the NRA language "would just be one more toothless federal gun law cleverly written to accomplish practically nothing," because it would "dismantle the straw purchaser provisions at the heart of" Leahy's original bill and because the NRA bill's "standard of proof is so high that it would be impossible to prosecute." Third Way added, "The NRA gambit is simply an attempt to distract the Senate from supporting the much stronger measure approved by Judiciary. The Chairman's [Sen. Leahy] bill would staunch the flow of guns into the illegal market and keep them out of the hands of criminals."
In the end, the NRA's Senate contingent blocked the background check proposal and along with it prevented any changes from being made to illegal gun trafficking laws.