Barr fails to persuade Cruz on expanded background checks

Barr fails to persuade Cruz on expanded background checks
© Greg Nash

A proposal floated by Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrDems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Pentagon to place new restrictions, monitoring on foreign military students Parnas: Environment around Trump 'like a cult' MORE to dramatically expand background checks for gun sales is falling flat with a key conservative: Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate GOP mulls speeding up Trump impeachment trial The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial GOP threatens to weaponize impeachment witnesses amid standoff MORE (R-Texas), who has warned of potential backlash from the right.

Cruz is worried that Barr’s proposal, which largely mirrors the 2013 background check amendment sponsored by Sens. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns MORE (R-Pa.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump's trial a major test for McConnell, Schumer Poll: West Virginia voters would view Manchin negatively if he votes to convict Trump Pelosi set to send impeachment articles to the Senate next week MORE (D-W.Va.), could move Democrats in the direction of supporting confiscation of certain firearms.

ADVERTISEMENT

Cruz is instead pushing his own proposal with Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenate begins preparations for Trump trial Big Pharma looks to stem losses after trade deal defeat Appeals court skeptical of Trump rule on TV drug ads MORE (R-Iowa) to fix holes in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and crack down on straw purchasers of firearms who turn around and sell them to prohibited individuals or middlemen.

“Of the 10 Democrats onstage running for president, three are explicitly supporting gun confiscation by the federal government,” Cruz said Wednesday after Senate Republicans discussed gun control proposals at a weekly lunch meeting.

“If we want to stop crimes, we need to focus on the bad guys, not the good guys,” he added. 

The administration has circulated a memo on Capitol Hill that proposes expanding background checks to all advertised commercial sales, including sales at guns shows, along the lines of the Manchin-Toomey proposal.

Under his plan background checks would be conducted for all commercial sales either through a federally licensed firearms dealer or a newly created class of licensed transfer agents.

Licensed gun dealers and transfer agents would not maintain these records, a provision intended to allay fears by Second Amendment advocates that the proposal could lead to the creation of a federal firearms registry.

Asked about Barr’s proposal, Cruz said, “I believe the proper path for the Senate to take is to vote on Grassley-Cruz and pass it.”

“And the last time we voted on it in the Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidThe Trumpification of the federal courts Trump to rally evangelicals after critical Christianity Today editorial Left presses 2020 Democrats to retake the courts from Trump MORE Democratic Senate, it got 52 votes, including 9 Democrats. it got the most bipartisan support of any of the comprehensive legislation. That’s the right path. Let’s solve the problem, not simply take political gestures,” he told reporters, referring to when the Senate last voted on his proposal in 2013 under then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Cruz is taking issue with proposals to expand background checks to all commercial gun sales, as envisioned by Barr’s latest memo, because it could lead to the creation of national firearms registry.

“I think Democratic members of Congress, a great many of them, want a national registry because the ultimate policy they want is gun confiscation. That is terrible policy, and it would make people less safe,” he said.

“If you want to stop crimes, don’t undermine the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. Focus on the felons and fugitives and those with serious mental illness who are a danger to themselves and others,” he added.  

Other Republicans have raised concerns about creating a slippery slope that could lead to a national firearms registry.

“The idea of a registry really bothers me,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.). “But I do think there are places — if you have to do a background check in a commercial store, a retail store — it just makes sense if you do it online or some other way the intent is still there that we have a background check.”