McCain flip-flops on expanded background checks

Facing Tea Party challenger, McCain now opposes the same common-sense gun laws he once supported

PHOENIX – As President Obama announced new efforts this morning to close the gun show loophole and stem the epidemic of gun violence in this country, John McCain declared his opposition to the actions saying they “restrict our citizens’ right to bear arms.”  


However, McCain’s new position is in direct contradiction to his long-held advocacy for expanded background checks and other gun control measures. He not only voted for expanded background checks only a few weeks ago, but also previously said on the floor of the U.S. Senate, “In my view, such background checks are not overly burdensome or unconstitutional.”


McCain even boasted about his support for increased gun control in campaign commercials.


“It must be an election year because John McCain is changing positions again,” said Arizona Democratic Party spokesperson Barbara Lubin. “Arizonans have come to expect the senator to flip-flop on important issues like immigration reform, but his faux outrage at the president taking action to keep families safe is a new low even for McCain.”





January 2016: McCain: “I Strongly Oppose The President Issuing An Executive Action Which Restricts Our Citizens' Right To Bear Arms.” In a statement posted to his campaign Twitter page, McCain said: “McCain: I strongly oppose the President issuing an Executive Action which restricts our citizens' right to bear arms. President Obama has once again ignored the separation of powers and disregarded the rule of law.” [Sen. John McCain campaign statement via Twitter, 1/5/2016]

December 2015: McCain Voted For An Amendment Modeled After The Manchin-Toomey Background Check Bill. According to National Journal, “Just one day after shooters in San Bernardino, California killed 14 people and injured 17 more, the Senate again voted down a bipartisan gun-control bill. The gun-control legislation, initially crafted by Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut elementary school shootings in 2012, failed on a 48-50 vote. The bill would require background checks for all gun sales including at gun shows and online, though not for the transfer of guns between friends and family members. Four Republicans—Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Mark Kirk of Illinois, John McCain of Arizona, and Toomey himself—voted in favor of the measure.” [National Journal, 12/3/15]

April 2013: McCain Voted For Expanding Existing Background Check System For Firearms Purchases To Include Firearms Purchased At Gun Shows And Over The Internet. In April 2013, McCain voted for: “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. Amdt. 715 to S. 649, Vote 97, 4/17/13

April 2013: McCain Said He Was “Very Favorably Disposed” To Expanded Background Checks, Claimed “Eighty Percent Of The American People Want To See A Better Background Check Procedure.” “Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said he was ‘very favorably disposed’ to the compromise measure that could come up for a vote as early as this week. ‘Eighty percent of the American people want to see a better background check procedure,’ McCain said on CNN’s ‘State of the Union,’ adding the country ‘wants to do what we can to prevent these tragedies and there’s a lot more that needs to be done.’ McCain’s voice on the matter is important as a leading Senate conservative.” [, 4/14/13]

April 2013: McCain Said Manchin, Toomey, “Did The Right Thing” By Offering Background Check Bill. “‘I’d like to just take a moment and express my appreciation for the two sponsors of this amendment -- Sen. Manchin and Sen. Toomey,’ said McCain on the Senate floor. ‘Both come from states where there are avid and dedicated and legitimate gun rights advocates. It would have been easier for both Sen. Manchin and Sen. Toomey to ignore this situation and not reach across the aisle to each other.’ Still, McCain’s support is likely not going to be enough to reach the 60 votes needed for passage. Even before McCain gave his speech, 42 senators -- all Republicans except Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) -- had already said they were opposing the amendment, which would expand and strengthen background checks for gun sales. ‘You may not win today, I say to my two colleagues,’ said McCain, acknowledging the bleak prospects for the amendment. ‘But I will say that you did the right thing. You did the right thing, and it’s been my experience as a senator in this body for some years, who has not always done the right thing, [that] doing the right thing is always a reward in itself.’” [Huffington Post, 4/17/13]

2001: McCain Worked With Americans For Gun Safety To Co-Author Gun Show Loophole Bill, Appeared In Ads Supporting Background Checks At Gun Shows. “Gun control advocates want it known why Second Amendment enthusiasts, for all their antipathy toward Barack Obama, aren't wild about John McCain. ‘Americans for Gun Safety (Third Way's precursor organization) worked closely with McCain in 2001 to co-author a federal bill to close the gun show loophole,’ writes Jill Pike, a spokeswoman for the moderate Democratic group Third Way. Pike points out that McCain cut ads like the one above, used in 2000 to promote an ultimately successful Oregon ballot intiative that required background checks at gun shows. Further, she notes that his current campaign manager, Rick Davis, was on contract as a lobbyist for Americans for Gun Safety after McCain returned to the Senate following his 2000 run and shifted his position on the gun show loophole. PIke writes that Davis was ‘our main connection to McCain.’” [Politico, 7/1/08]