The Phantom Menace That Could Kill a Gun Control Bill

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 5 2013 7:02 PM

The Phantom Menace That Could Kill a Gun Control Bill

My latest story reveals -- almost belatedly -- the soft underbelly of the background checks campaign. Democrats just adore those polls that put support for universal background checks (i.e., checks at gun shows) at 90 percent. But the NRA et al have done yeoman work defining "background checks" as the gateway to a "national gun registry," which legally can't exist. There aren't too many industry types worried about the gun registry. They actually control the gun records.

In the NRA’s nightmare scenario, without some repeal of the 1986 law, government agents would need to raid gun shops to find out where gun owners lived and kick off the Great Confiscation. I asked Charles Steele, owner of Steele’s Gun Shop in Lewes, Del., how that might go down.
“I’d tell them to bring their own marshmallows,” he says. “I’d start a fire with those papers.”

Greg Sargent, who has been working this beat like Humphrey Bogart with a gold pan, talks to Democrats who insist a background checks compromise is in the offing. Indeed, this idea that "gun legislation is dead" because Congress has been gone for a few weeks is ridiculous. Democrats always planned to jaw about a more expansive gun bill then pass what they could. But I'm not sure they understood the full power of the operational "national gun registry" death star.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.