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Finding support for background checks in unexpected places

Asa Hutchinson, a former Republican congressman from Arkansas, has led a National Rifle Association task force on school violence, and yesterday unveiled a report calling for, among other things, more armed personnel in every American school.

But that's not the interesting part. Rather, what mattered far more is what Hutchinson told Wolf Blitzer a few hours after unveiling the NRA's plan.

For those who can't watch clips online, asked about the centerpiece of Democratic efforts to reduce gun violence, Hutchinson said, "Yes. Absolutely. I'm open to expanding background checks." He added that he'd like to see it done "in a way that does not infringe upon an individual and make it hard for an individual to transfer to a friend or a neighbor or somebody."

This, to put it mildly, is not the NRA's position. Indeed, the right-wing organization issued a statement soon after saying Hutchinson, who led the NRA's school-violence task force and was doing interviews to promote the NRA's plan, was "not speaking" for the NRA. The group went on to say Hutchinson was not referring to background checks when he said, "I'm open to expanding background checks."


At this point, it's worth pausing to appreciate an  increasingly ridiculous dynamic: Republicans both (a) support Democratic efforts to expand firearm background checks; and (b) have vowed to kill Democratic efforts to expand firearm background checks.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), for example, said he wants "a real background check on everyone" trying to buy a gun. His office then said he didn't mean it.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) used to condemn the "dangerous" gun-show loophole and call for expanded background checks. He now believes the opposite.

The NRA's Wayne LaPierre once said, "We believe it's reasonable to provide for instant background checks at gun shows, just like gun stores and pawn shops." The group more recently said, "Yes, the NRA has changed its position."

After the Columbine massacre, 10 Republican senators who remain in the chamber, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, supported at least partially closing the gun-show loophole. All 10 have since moved further to the right.

And yesterday, the conservative Republican the NRA chose to lead its own school-violence task force said he's "absolutely" open to "expanding background checks," which the NRA then distanced itself from.

So, to review, the public overwhelmingly supports expanded background checks; Democratic officials support expanded background checks; Republican officials have spent years endorsing expanded background checks; the NRA itself has expressed support for expanded background checks; and by everyone's estimation, there are no constitutional concerns whatsoever with expanded background checks.

And yet, despite all of this, the number of Senate Republicans who are prepared to close the gun-show loophole in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary remains zero.