Clint Eastwood’s character “Dirty Harry” Callahan uttered the famous words, “A man’s gotta know his limitations”, in the movie Magnum Force.
So it is with gun rights organizations and their leaders. In the past I’ve criticized the NRA-ILA and Chris Cox for claiming credit for Heller and McDonald when the latter was a project of the Second Amendment Foundation. At the time, I also said in an ideal world there would be a division of labor with the Second Amendment Foundation and Alan Gura doing litigation and the NRA-ILA handling the lobbying of Congress. Those are, and continue to be, the strengths of the respective organizations.
Thus, when news broke that Alan Gottlieb and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms was claiming credit for the Manchin-Toomey “compromise” on gun background checks, I was dismayed and, to be perfectly frank, outraged.
It’s time to get real. The Second Amendment Foundation does litigation really well just as the NRA-ILA does lobbying at the national level really well. Just as the NRA is only so-so when it comes to gun rights litigation, SAF’s 503c4-affiliate, the Citizens Committee is only so-so on lobbying. Neither are really as effective at the state level as the state-level organizations such as ISRA, CalGuns, GRNC, or Virginia Citizens Defense League among many others.
Alan Gottlieb and CCRKBA had no business getting involved in writing Manchin-Toomey. Gun control legislation was slowly dying in the Senate until the “grand compromise” revived it. The gun prohibitionists have already jumped on Alan’s statement. Mark Glaze, executive director of Mayor Bloomberg’s Illegal Mayors, called it “a helpful development” in the Washington Post. Conversely, groups like the CalGuns Foundation and Cal-FFL are not that enthused about it even if it might make things a little easier in California.
There are neither enough goodies nor poison pills for the opposition to make Manchin-Toomey palatable to me. To put it bluntly, I think Alan Gottlieb screwed up royally on this one. The sad part is that it will probably hurt gun rights litigation, which his organization does well.
As I said in the headline to this post, a man’s gotta know his limitations.
UPDATE: Second Amendment scholar and attorney Dave Kopel does an excellent job dissecting the supposedly “pro-gun” portions of Manchin-Toomey and concludes that they are actually very strong anti-gun provisions. He calls its a “bonanza of gun control”. It should be noted that Dave has been both a speaker and attendee at a number of the Gun Rights Policy Conferences put on by CCRKBA and the Second Amendment Foundation.