Small Ball Gun Legislation Nearing a Vote in the Senate

| Tue Mar. 5, 2013 12:02 PM EST

I didn't get around to blogging about this at the time, but Greg Sargent noted yesterday that there's a possibility of progress on gun legislation:

Later today, Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, will roll out a compromise proposal — with bipartisan support — on a key piece of Obama’s gun control agenda: The measure designed to crack down on gun trafficking and so-called “straw purchasers.”

Senate aides familiar with the talks tell me that Senator Susan Collins will support the measure today — a real breakthrough in terms of getting Republican support for significant legislative action on guns.

Sure enough, the bill was introduced and the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on it tomorrow.

This is good news, but I think I'd hesitate to call it a real breakthrough, even if it does get broad Republican support. Gun trafficking and straw purchases were all part of the Fast & Furious scandal, the GOP's pet rock of 2011-12, and my guess is that if Republicans support this legislation, they'll mainly sell it to their constituents as a response to a scandal that proved the ATF was poorly managed and out of control. It gives conservatives a reason to declare some kind of victory in the longrunning F&F saga, which ended in disappointment for them when multiple investigations suggested it was just a run-of-the-mill cockup, not a Watergate-level coverup from the Obama administration. It also doesn't really encroach on any of the NRA's biggest taboos. High-capacity magazines, assault weapon bans, and universal background checks are still light years away from getting any Republican support.

So sure, this is nice. But it's a one-off, and not a very important one-off. We still have a lot of work ahead before we make any real inroads into the power of the gun lobby.