During a Wednesday debate on the Senate floor, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) could be heard laughing out loud after Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) claimed that expanded gun background checks was part of a "push for a federal registry."
After Cruz said that he objected to a bipartisan plan to extended background checks to gun shows and Internet sales because it "would put us inexorably on a path to a national gun registry," Schumer pointed out that the same background check system had been used for 17 years for federal fire licensees (FFLs).
"It's the same technique, it's the same entry into the book and everything else," the New York Democrat argued.
"But what is consequential," Cruz opined, "is extending it to private sellers, not licensed dealers because the argument surely would be -- if this bill passed, the argument would immediately become, 'Well, it can't possibly be effective because we don't know who owns those firearms.'"
Schumer pressed: "Just one more question, has my colleague in the last 17 years detected any move out of Washington for national registration, any specific substantive move by ATF, the Justice Department or any other federal agency to begin a campaign, a move to any kind of national registration?"
"It is not currently proposed, but if the bill that is being considered were adopted it would put us on that path," Cruz insisted.
At that point, laughter could be heard off camera. A Senate Democratic aide later confirmed to The Huffington Post that the guffaw had come from Schumer.
Gun control opponents have long claimed that expanded background checks were part of a conspiracy to create a national gun registry and eventually confiscate the firearms of law-abiding citizens. In televised advertisements earlier this year, the National Rifle Association said it had "proof" that President Barack Obama's administration "believes that a gun ban will not work without mandatory gun confiscation."
Senate Republicans and several conservative Democrats on Wednesday blocked the effort to expand background checks.
"Instead of supporting this compromise, the gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill," Obama said in an angry Rose Garden announcement following the Senate vote.