“I get what they’re trying to do in response to the House. Unfortunately, it’s a very critical part of the legislation,” Quigley said. “It’s just as frustrating as it could possibly be. This town is famous for poison pills, but this is our one bite at the apple [on gun control]. This is our one chance.”
Over the last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee has advanced legislation to ban assault weapons (S 150), require expanded background checks for gun sales (S 374) and crack down on gun traffickers (S 54).
Quigley said the Senate rider dealing with gun inventories is the “antithesis” of his bill and specifically undermines the Senate’s own gun trafficking proposal. He said the Senate is “pounding its chest” by saying publicly that it is cracking down on gun traffickers while quietly taking up appropriations language that makes it harder for federal authorities to track illegal guns.
Jim Kessler, senior vice president for policy at the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way, said he saw the influence of the National Rifle Association in the Senate appropriations language, noting that the powerful gun rights group has worked to include the language in spending bills for years.
“It shows that the NRA is always on offense and rarely on defense,” said Kessler, a former legislative director for Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat who is spearheading an effort to require universal background checks for all gun sales. “Even in a very adverse situation for them, in which many in Congress and the White House are trying to do something constructive to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and crazy people, the NRA continues to advance its agenda.”
Kessler said gun-related legislation “should move through regular order, not some back-room stopgap spending bill. It’s time for that practice to stop.”
The NRA did not respond to an inquiry about whether it lobbied in favor of the policy riders. The White House also did not respond to requests for comment.