GOP Senator Wants the Feds to Register Their Guns

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UPDATE, Wednesday, May 8, 1:05 p.m.: Sen. Coburn has withdrawn his gun registry amendment, the Huffington Post reports, “as a goodwill gesture” to water resources bill sponsor Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

ORIGINAL POST: For the first time since it rejected a compromise on expanded background checks in April, the Senate will take up gun control again Wednesday afternoon. Sort of, anyway: Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has proposed two gun amendments to a water resources bill, one to relax laws against gun owners carrying their firearms in recreational areas and the other to create a national gun and ammo registry—but just for the federal government.

Coburn’s first amendment would allow guns on lands operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers, “just like everywhere else,” as Coburn told the Huffington Post. (The water resources bill, typically voted on every other year, authorizes Army Corps projects.) That’s long been a goal of the National Rifle Association and other gun rights advocates. The other amendment is weirder: It would require the federal government to submit reports to Congress detailing all guns and ammo it purchased in the past year and how many were stolen or otherwise unaccounted for, with an exception for matters of national security (PDF).

Coburn’s gun registry amendment plays into a specious theory advanced by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who have alleged that the feds are buying up ammo to create a shortage and keep it out of the hands (and guns) of private citizens. Should that happen, gun hardliners argue, it’s a big step down the road to a dystopian future that would mirror how Hitler supposedly carried out the Holocaust by disarming Jews (a reductive argument that fails to contextualize how Jews were systematically deprived of all their rights).

The Senate is scheduled to vote on Coburn’s amendments on Wednesday afternoon. Most of the gun-related proposals that the Senate has voted on this year to either expand or roll back gun rights have been rejected.

Meanwhile, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) are continuing their efforts to further revise their background check amendment that fell five votes short of the 60-vote filibuster-proof threshold. The Huffington Post reported on Tuesday that two unnamed senators would drop their opposition to a new Manchin-Toomey bill with “minor, superficial changes.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) hinted that Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), whose approval rating fell 15 points after she voted against the Manchin-Toomey bill, might be one of the unnamed lawmakers. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), one of four Democrats who voted against the bill, has also considered changing course. And gun reform advocates have their eyes on Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who promised the mother of an Aurora mass shooting victim he would vote for expanded background checks before voting against the bill and taking lots of heat as a result.