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U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell, R-2nd, is being targeted by a pro-gun group for supporting for "Obama’s gun control."
The National Association for Gun Rights aired an ad in Hampton Roads earlier this month criticizing Rigell for co-sponsoring legislation that would increase penalties for people who illegally purchase firearms or transport them across state lines.
"Rigell also wants gun owners in a federal registration system," the ad said.
We wondered whether Rigell, who boasts a pro-gun background, really has endorsed a federal gun registry. The congressman, in a news release, dismissed the charge as "laughable."
The group is headquartered in Fredericksburg and bills itself as the "fastest growing guns right group in America." We made three requests to the association for information that would back up its claim about Rigell. No one got back to us. So we poked around on our own.
Let’s start with a little background. The federal government since 1986 has been explicitly forbidden from keeping a registration system connecting most firearms to their owners. Even when Congress passed legislation in 1993 that instituted the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, it did not allow the government to keep information about firearm purchasers in order to build a data base.
In the wake of shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last December that left 20 children and six teachers dead, President Barack Obama made a series of proposals to strengthen gun laws. One of them calls for expanding background checks, which now apply to people who buy guns from licensed dealers. Obama says people who buy arms from private individuals should also be checked out.
Rigell has said in at least two interviews that he would be willing to consider proposals for expanded or universal background checks.
The National Rifle Association, the most influential of guns rights organizations, claims the president’s support of universal background checks is tantamount to creating a federal registry. The NRA argues that expanding the checks will create a slippery slope that will lead to the registry.
FactCheck.org said in January that "it’s simply not accurate to suggest that Obama’s plan for universal background checks would result in a massive federal registry." They pointed out that Congress, since 2004, has inserted language in annual spending bills requiring the FBI to destroy firearm transfer records within 24 hours of approval of the sales.
Obama’s gun control agenda also includes a limit on the number of bullets a magazine can hold, an assault weapons ban and more support for mental health care. But none of the 23 proposals calls for a federal registry.
Some Democratic members of Congress, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois, have introduced bills that would create gun registries. Rigell has vowed to oppose the measures. "As a gun owner, hunter and lifetime member of the NRA, I have not and will not support legislation which establishes in any form a national registry of guns or gun owners," he said on Feb. 28.
That’s consistent with a statement Rigell posted on his campaign website in 2010, when he was first elected to Congress. "Federal licensing of law-abiding gun owners and national gun registration would violate our Second Amendment rights," he wrote.
Rigell, as we’ve noted, did co-sponsor a gun bill earlier this year that would increase the federal penalties for straw purchasers -- people who buy weapons for those who cannot pass background checks -- and for runners who transport guns across state lines.
But the bill makes no mention of a federal registry.
The National Association for Gun Rights claims that Rigell wants a national gun registration system. The record shows he has consistently opposed that idea.
The association offers no proof for its claim, which is wrong and inflammatory. It’s only fitting that we set the association’s Pants on Fire.
National Association for Gun Rights, "Rigell wants to pass Obamas Gun Control," (ad), Feb. 27, 2013.
Federal Bureau of Investigation, "National Instant Criminal Background Check System," accessed March 11, 2013.
FBI, "NICS Fact Sheet," accessed March 11, 2013.
FactCheck.org, "NRA Misfires on Federal Gun Registry," Jan. 25, 2013.
Time, "Fact Check: The Gun Registry Red Herring," Jan. 24, 2013.
WTKR, "Rigell responds to gun rights ad," March 1, 2013.
The Virginian-Pilot, "Rigell returns fire after drawing gun group’s ire," March 2, 2013.
YouTube, "Rep. Scott Rigell Joins MSNBC’s Morning joe to Discuss his Bipartisan Gun Trafficking Legislation," Feb. 5, 2013.
YouTube, "Rep. Scott Rigell Joins Soledad O’Brien on CNN to Discuss his Bipartisan Gun Trafficking Legislation," Feb. 6, 2013.
YouTube, "Rep. Rigell Joins MSNBC to Speak with Martin Bashir about his Bipartisan Gun Trafficking Legislation," Feb. 8, 2013.
White House, "Now is the Time," Jan. 16, 2013.
National Rifle Association, "Statement from Chris W. Cox Regarding ‘Universal’ Background Checks," Jan. 25, 2013.
The Hill, "Holder defends Obama gun-control measures to state attorneys general," Feb. 26, 2013.
The Washington Post, "Now here’s some real movement on gun control," March 4, 2013.
Rigell, "Outside Group Distorts Rigell’s Record on Gun Rights," Feb. 28, 2013.
Interview with Chris Connelly, chief of staff for Rep. Rigell, March 5, 2013.
Scott Rigell for Congress, "Where I stand on: The Second Amendment," accessed March 5, 2013.
Scott Rigell for Congress 2010 through web.archive.org, accessed March 5, 2013.
OnTheIssues.org, "Scott Rigell on Gun Control," accessed March 5, 2013.
The Virginian-Pilot, "A look at GOP candidates’ views in the 2nd district," May 31, 2010.
The Washington Post, "Will House GOP really line up against law enforcement on guns?" Feb. 4, 2013.
WHRO, "HearSay with Cathy Lewis" from Jan. 22, 2013. (Rigell speaks on universal background checks at about 30:40)
The Virginian-Pilot, "The perils of compromise in D.C.," March 5, 2013.
NRA-Institute for Legislative Action, "Private Sales Restrictions and Gun Registration," Jan. 17, 2013.
NRA-ILA, "‘Universal background checks’ -- Absolutely not," Jan. 25, 2013.
The Hill, "House Judiciary chairman rejects universal checks on gun purchases," Feb. 27, 2013.
The Hill, "Gun talks hit a snag in Senate over universal background checks," March 5, 2013.
Bloomberg News, "Senate Panel Backs Stiffer Penalties for Gun Trafficking," March 7, 2013.
Interview with Ladd Everitt, spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, March 12, 2013.
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