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Will Heller Cave to Gun Lobby and Once Again Oppose Expanding Background Checks?

With Pennsylvania’s Republican Sen. Pat Toomey making plans to revive his bipartisan bill to expand background checks on gun sales and close the gun show loophole, Sen. Dean Heller will be forced to decide once again whether to fold under pressure from the gun lobby or support common-sense measures to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals.

When the Manchin-Toomey bill came up in the Senate in 2013, in the aftermath of the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, Heller refused to co-sponsor the legislation and couldn’t even articulate a coherent explanation for voting against it. At the time, Heller’s opposition was rooted in fears of retribution from the gun lobby.

Nevada State Democratic Party spokesperson Sarah Abel released the following statement:

“After years of caving to the gun lobby in Washington, Nevadans are wondering: will Dean Heller continue to be the spineless senator they’ve come to know and despise, or will he grow a backbone and stand up for the safety of his constituents? If his voting record and campaign contributions are any indicator, Heller will continue to vote against efforts to reduce gun violence as long as he stays in the Senate.”


Heller Took $110,815 From The Gun Lobby. According to OpenSecrets, Heller received $110,815 from the gun lobby over the course of his career. [OpenSecrets, Accessed 10/2/17]

Aides Said Heller Did Not Co-Sponsor Background Check Bill In 2013 Because He Feared “Retribution” From The Group Gun Owners Of America.  “Gun Owners of America’s central mission now is to prevent the passage of several bills about to hit the Senate floor. It is also lobbying for a House bill that would eliminate gun-free school zones. Democratic aides said that Republicans approached to co-sponsor a background check bill cited Mr. Pratt’s group as their biggest impediment, fearing retribution. Senator Dean Heller of Nevada worried about the group, aides say; Mr. Pratt said his group was concerned about Mr. Heller. ‘He’s been kind of wandering around,’ Mr. Pratt said. Mr. Heller said that the group ‘is a group that I respect,’ adding that he believed Congress ‘should expand background checks,’ but had declined to support a bill with Mr. Schumer. His spokesman did not respond to more requests about Mr. Heller’s relationship with the group.” [New York Times, 4/4/13]

Heller Voted Against The Bipartisan Manchin-Toomey Legislation To Expand Background Checks For Gun Purchases And Close The Gun Show Loophole. Heller voted against, “Manchin, D-W.Va., amendment no. 715 that would expand an existing background check system to include firearms purchased at gun shows and over the Internet. It would allow gun» show sales to proceed if a background check does not prompt a response within 48 hours and reduce that to a 24-hour wait four years after enactment. It would exempt family transfers and some private sales. The amendment would restrict law enforcement grant funds for states that do not provide all available records to the national background check database. It would ban the creation of a national firearms registry, allow active-duty military members buy guns in their home state and create a commission to study the causes of mass violence in the United States.” The amendment was rejected 54-46. [CQ, 4/17/13, S 649, Vote 97, 4/17/13]

  • Heller: “I Believe That This Legislation Could Lead To The Creation Of A National Gun Registry And Puts Additional Burdens On Law-Abiding Citizens.” “Another one of those 16, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), said late Tuesday he will oppose the measure. Heller’s opposition could prove decisive, as McConnell has a solid 40 votes against Manchin-Toomey, according to public whip counts. One more vote would put McConnell over the top. ‘Despite the good faith efforts of Senators Manchin and Toomey, the onerous paperwork and expansion of federal power mandated in this legislation are too great of a concern,’ Heller said in a statement. ‘I believe that this legislation could lead to the creation of a national gun registry and puts additional burdens on law-abiding citizens.’” [POLITICO, 4/16/13]

Former KSNV Host Hugh Jackson: “Heller Time And Time Again Said Congress Should Expand Background Checks. Then He Voted No, Even Though He Could Offer No Rational Or Even Coherent Explanation For His Vote.” “Heller time and again said Congress should expand background checks. Then he voted not to, even though he could offer no rational or even coherent explanation for his vote, relying instead on an intellectually bankrupt assertion that existed only in the imagination of gun lobbyists who, lacking any credible justification for their position, just made something up. Heller was afraid of the gun lobby, plain and simple, so he put what he thought was in his best political interest ahead of what he himself said was in the country’s best interest.” [Las Vegas City Life, Hugh Jackson, Op-Ed, 5/2/13]

Demonstrators Gathered To Protest Heller’s Vote Against Expanding Background Checks For Gun Purchasers. “Demonstrators rallied outside the federal building in Las Vegas on Saturday to protest U.S. Sen. Dean Heller’s vote against more extensive background checks for gun purchasers. Speakers accused the Nevada Republican of caving in to pressure from the National Rifle Association and ignoring the vast majority of Nevadans who support the expanded background checks. Jonathan Abbinett, a longtime hunter and gun owner, urged the crowd of some 150 at the ‘Shame on You’ protest not to give up the fight for gun control. Heller communication director Chandler Smith didn’t immediately respond to a message for comment. Protesters marched and waved placards at passing motorists before hearing speakers. One male protester dressed as a chicken held a sign reading, ‘Dean Heller is Chicken.’” [Associated Press, 4/21/13]