As Igor Volsky at Think Progress noted yesterday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) got called out during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing when repeating the NRA's talking points about why background checks for all gun purchases supposedly won't work. It was nice to see someone stand up to Graham and the bullying we've seen from him during these hearings.
During a heated exchange at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) proposed assault weapons ban on Wednesday, Edward Flynn pointedly interrupted Graham’s claims that the federal government is failing to deter individuals from misrepresenting themselves in the background check process by failing to prosecute people who were rejected from purchasing a weapon as a result of their false claims.
Flynn argued that rather than embark on a “paper chase,” law enforcement officials are focused on preventing people from purchasing guns illegally, eliciting loud applause from the audience:
GRAHAM: When almost 80,000 people fail a background check and 44 people are prosecuted, what kind of deterrent is that? I mean, the law obviously is not seeing that as important…. We absolutely do nothing to enforce the laws on the books…
FLYNN: Just for the record, from my point of view, the point of a background check…
GRAHAM: How many cases have you made? How many cases have you made?
FLYNN: It doesn’t matter, it’s a paper thing. I want to stop 76,000 people from getting guns illegally. That’s what a background check does. If you think we’re going to do paperwork prosecutions, you’re wrong. [...] We don’t make those cases. We have priorities. We make gun cases. We make 2,000 gun cases a year, senator, that’s our priority. We’re not in a paper chase. We’re trying to prevent the wrong people from buying guns. That’s why we do background checks. If you think I’m going to do a paper chase, then you think I’m going to misuse my resources.
[...] Indeed, the “low number of prosecutions in 2010, the most recent year for which data are available, is consistent with other years” and is often seen as a poor use of resources. Prosecutors must prove that “the person knew they were lying when they tried to purchase the firearm” in order to secure a conviction which “usually carries a maximum sentence of just six months.”
UPDATE: The Rev. Al Sharpton spoke to Chief Flynn following his testimony and got his reaction to the heated exchange he had with Graham during the hearing. Flynn expressed his frustration over his dealings with Graham and I wanted to share at least this short portion of his conversation with Sharpton about the hearing:
FLYNN: And I found extraordinarily frustrating as I sat there... every one of those Senators with Lindsey Graham got up there and said, oh, we respect your work and oh, we're so sorry about the tragedy in Newtown, but, oh by the way, we're not going to do anything about it. Well, that's unacceptable. And you can't help but become a little agitated when somebody engages in a piece of sophistry that says, look over here, nobody prosecuted these people for filling out their paperwork wrong. No, but we've locked up thousands of gun offenders and the paperwork that was done prevented hundreds of thousands of more from getting guns illegally. So the background check worked.
I'm fairly sure Graham knows that, but as long as he's worried about some TeaBircher giving him a primary challenge, he's going to continue with the sophistry.