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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 BarrBill BarrNew DOJ rule could allow executions by electrocution, firing squad Clyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Five federal inmates scheduled for execution before Inauguration Day MORE to dramatically expand background checks for gun sales is falling flat with a key conservative: Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzO'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol 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 ToomeyAppeals court rules NSA's bulk phone data collection illegal Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel GOP senators push for quick, partial reopening of economy MORE (R-Pa.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinMajor unions back Fudge for Agriculture secretary Voters split on eliminating the filibuster: poll OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight MORE (D-W.Va.), could move Democrats in the direction of supporting confiscation of certain firearms.

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Cruz is instead pushing his own proposal with Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyRep. Rick Allen tests positive for COVID-19 On The Money: Biden to nominate Yellen for Treasury secretary | 'COVID cliff' looms | Democrats face pressure to back smaller stimulus Loeffler to continue to self-isolate after conflicting COVID-19 test results 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 ReidFeinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight Whitehouse says Democratic caucus will decide future of Judiciary Committee Bottom line 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.”