Erosion takes time. With news that the Senate might push a vote on a package of new gun legislation for another week, opponents gain seven more days to wear down support for its elements — even for some of the more popular elements, like new trafficking regulations.
There are four components to the Senate package: increased funding for school safety programs, new gun trafficking penalties, increased background checks, and a ban on assault weapons. They're listed in the order of how likely they are to pass, from most to least. The NRA's goal is to pull the entire package to the right until it crosses the invisible line of 40 votes needed to tank the entire thing — or until what remains up for approval is sufficiently watered-down. They've done so with the fourth element, the assault weapons ban, already. It's well past the 40-vote line, and as a result will be voted on as an amendment to the main package. That will fail.
Then the NRA ramped up opposition to the next least likely, background checks, tugging at it steadily. It was already tottering on the boundary, after a bipartisan effort to reach compromise on its provisions failed. The organization stumbled a bit on this issue yesterday, when former Senator Asa Hutchinson, the NRA's point person on its new school safety plan, told CNN that he was open to expanded background checks. The Huffington Post reports:
"You can do it within a way that does not infringe upon an individual, and make it hard for an individual to transfer to a friend or a neighbor or somebody... and have a casual sale," Hutchinson said. "We don't want to infringe upon those rights, either."
While Hutchinson's comments express support for background checks, he stopped far short of endorsing the type of universal background checks for all gun sales that have been proposed in Senate legislation.
The NRA quickly clarified Hutchinson's comments. "He meant expanding it to include more people into the national instant check system," the lobbying group said in a statement to CNN.