WASHINGTON -- The only sizeable pro-gun group to back a bipartisan background check amendment has withdrawn its support at the last minute, dealing another blow to the already wounded gun legislation stumbling its way through the Senate chamber.
Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, the second-biggest gun organization in the country with more than half a million members and supporters, said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that it was pulling its support out of frustration with Democratic leadership for refusing to hold a vote on gun "rights restoration."
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who along with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) struck the deal, hailed the support of the group just this morning on a call with Pennsylvania reporters, according to a reporter on the call. And on the Senate floor Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pointed to the group's backing as critical.
"Our support for this measure was contingent on several key provisions, the cornerstone of which was a rights restoration provision that is not on the schedule for consideration,” said CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb in a statement that described him as frustrated. "We cannot, in clear conscience, continue to support a measure that will not include this critical relief component. If Democrats like [New York Sen. Charles] Schumer thought we could be flimflammed on this, they were wrong."
Democratic leadership aides dismissed the group's reasoning as a cover for its failure to sway pro-gun senators. "This eleventh-hour retreat is all about hiding how little juice this group has, nothing more," the aide said.
A second aide echoed the point: "Guess they think they got too far out and are looking for a reason to backpedal."
The move still leaves the background check amendment with the support of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys, the Independent Firearms Owners Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Shooting and Sports Foundation.
It is also, as of this writing, short of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster.
READ the group's statement in full below:
This is not a reflection against Senators Joe Manchin or Pat Toomey, who are staunch Second Amendment advocates, and I want to thank them for all of their efforts to include as many protections for our gun rights as possible. But it appears the Democratic leadership in the Senate was opposed to letting this important consideration come up for a vote. We told everyone including a number of senators, that while there are many pro-gun rights provisions added to the main body of the bill, our support was contingent on this additional amendment coming to the floor. When we say something, we mean it.
Rights restoration has been withheld from American citizens for more than two decades, ever since Sen. Charles Schumer -- when he was still in the House of Representatives -- successfully strong-armed a provision to withdraw funding for rights restoration investigations by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Senators Manchin and Toomey are not to blame for this, as they have been negotiating in good faith throughout this process. But Schumer and other anti-gun Democrats are continuing their campaign of demagoguery in order to permanently disqualify as many Americans as possible from being able to exercise their fundamental rights under the Second Amendment.
If the Manchin-Toomey alternative now goes down to defeat. Democrats in the Senate, led by Harry Reid, have only themselves to blame. While the Manchin-Toomey alternative has a significant number of gains for gun owners, it will not include this key provision, upon which our support was dependent.
We cannot, in clear conscience, continue to support a measure that will not include this critical relief component. If Democrats like Schumer thought we could be flimflammed on this, they were wrong.