From the press room of the NRA National Meeting, Nashville, TN: Sipsey Street Irregulars can now confirm the broad outlines of a story first disclosed two days ago by National Gun Rights Examiner columnist David Codrea. Last week, a secret deal involving the National Rifle Association lobbying arm and brokered by politicians of both national political parties was struck in Washington DC that would save the ATF from the political and legal consequences of its own regulatory errors. In the process, this deal would broaden the language of the 1968 Gun Control Act regarding "sporting purposes" and allow ATF to extract itself from the potentially catastrophic political damage of enforcing its arbitrary ruling that makes every owner of a pistol grip 12 Gauge shotgun like the Mossberg Cruiser a felon in possession of a "destructive device" subject to the penalties of the National Firearms Act of 1934 -- currently up to 10 years in federal prison and a quarter million dollar fine.
According to sources well-familiar with the legislative rationale and ever-changing and even contradictory regulatory history of the ATF, this crisis for the agency was self-inflicted and precipitated by two legal cases wending their way through the federal courts in Texas and Pennsylvania. Said one, "The ATF doesn't dare reverse itself unilaterally once again on what does and does not constitute a shotgun 'destructive device.' They are frightened to death that either case may go to discovery and reveal their whole sorry rule-making mess." Said another, "There are people currently rotting in federal prison on NFA violations and others walking around scot-free. At some point, unless the Congress gives them the cover by changing the law, they are going to have to explain that in open court."
As explained by sources here and in the nation's capitol, the outlines of what one called "this cynical deal with the Devil" are as follows:
1. The ATF will be let off the hook by broadening the "sporting purposes" language and legislatively negating their own determination that millions of heretofore legal pistol-grip shotguns produced over the past decades by companies like Mossberg are "destructive devices."
2. The NRA will get to claim credit for, as one source said, "riding in out of the storm on a white horse and claiming to have saved millions of firearm owners from federal prison, even though," he added, "everybody in the room with an IQ above room temperature understands that politically and legally there is no (expletive deleted) way that ATF can enforce this ruling on anybody. They can't and they won't . . so" he concluded, "the NRA will claim to have saved their members from a boogeyman that never really existed."
3. In return for allowing NRA to claim the credit, the Democrats demanded another ammunition import ban on "specialty ammunition," to include tracers. Some sources agreed that this last "gimme" was a "throwaway," in the words of one. "Look, their M.O. is to always demand more than they know they can get in to get the thing they really value. They'd like to get it but what they really covet is knocking a bigger hole in the Constitution by (widening the 'sporting purposes' language) . . . this deal will give them one big enough to drive Diane Feinstein's limousine through."
This reporter could get no one from NRA national leadership to go on or off the record to confirm this deal, but other sources familiar with the internal fallout of these revelations say that David Codrea's original story was "spot on," adding "they can't believe they were found out." Other sources in the nation's capitol indicate that the deal was intended to be kept secret until it could be attached as a innocuous rider at the last moment to a "must-pass" appropriations bill. Said one: "The plan was to pass it, claim victory on all sides, and pray that no one noticed the 'sporting purposes tweak.'"
He added: "What they're really frightened about is how you guys found out about this so soon. That's got them rattled." Added another, "they're looking for your sources and looking at each other and wondering who the snitch is." There is much behind-the-scenes speculation here as to how members of the NRA will react, what answers they will demand, and how these revelations will play into the Wayne LaPierre-Chris Cox rivalry for power. It is no secret to the insiders I talked to that there is little love lost between the two and much mutual suspicion of motives. Said one: "The key thing is, was this Cox's baby alone or did he get Wayne's signoff?" And, he added, "who's going to be manuevered into taking the blame for it?" Other sources tell this reporter that some very hard questions are going to be asked of Cox and LaPierre by board members in the coming days.
If so, that will be more reaction than that shown by the so-called "mainstream gun rights press" in evidence in the NRA pressroom. Since David Codrea's story broke two days ago, they have been, as near as this reporter could tell, studiously, deliberately incurious about the implications of these revelations. Copies of David's story have been distributed to them since it broke and most seem to have ignored it and few asked me any questions about it.
What reaction NRA leadership had to Codrea's original story could only be gleaned by second-hand sources, but one said that "what they're telling anybody who asks is that you're both crazy sonsabitches who are making this up. . . You two are not their favorite people right now." I asked another source, "Are they mad because the story is right, or mad because it's wrong." "They're mad," he said with a grin, "because it's right."
So, in the midst of non-denial denials and ad hominem attacks, we will continue to try to drill down to the truth as we can, this last day of the NRA national meeting of 2015.