Updated: May 8, 2013, 1:02 PM
The Senate is scheduled to vote Wednesday afternoon on an amendment offered by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) that may add fuel to a conspiracy theory about President Obama’s gun control efforts that even the National Rifle Association has said is based on fiction.
Coburn’s office denied that he’s buying into the theory and said his legislation is merely about government accountability and waste.The Coburn amendment, attached to unrelated water resources legislation and set for a 60-vote threshold, would require federal agencies (excluding the Pentagon) to report the number of rounds of ammunition they purchase. It would also require them to report firearms purchased as well as those that are stolen, lost or unaccounted for.
“Many Americans have questioned the amount of rounds of ammunition the federal government has purchased,” began Coburn’s summary of the amendment.
The theory is that the government is buying up ammunition so that there’s less of it available to ordinary Americans on the open market. It was popularized by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who claimed the government is preparing for an all-out war against the public. Only it’s false. Even the NRA has called it “incendiary” and “invent[ed].”
“As most gun owners will agree, skepticism of government is healthy. But today, there are more than enough actual threats to the Second Amendment to keep gun owners busy,” the NRA said last fall. “[T]here is no need to invent additional threats to our rights.”
The outlandish theory gained so much attention among right-wing gun lovers that Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) introduced legislation to limit the amount of ammunition federal agencies excluding the Pentagon may purchase. House Republicans have also explored the theory.
Coburn’s spokesman John Hart told TPM the senator is “not concerned with the market issue” — that his concern is about “waste and safety.” Hart added, “We expect the gun control lobby would support this amendment that would help the government keep better track of its own guns and make sure they don’t fall into the wrong hands.”
Indeed, there’s a twist: Democratic Senate aides privately believe that Coburn’s amendment on federal documentation inadvertently concedes that guns are dangerous and need to be tracked. As such, they may actually conclude that it helps their cause.
The vote, scheduled for Wednesday afternoon at a filibuster-proof threshold, is paid with another amendment by Coburn to allow guns in water development areas such as lakes and camp sites. Democratic leaders hope to defeat that amendment but expect a tight vote.
Update: Shortly before the vote Wednesday, and after publication of the article below, Coburn withdrew his amendment, his office and Democratic leadership confirmed to TPM.