The gun lobby that senators and congressmen are really afraid of (hint: it’s not the NRA)

Jeff Zeleny, Richard Coolidge, and Jordyn Phelps
Power Players

Power Players

As the Senate moves to vote on expanding background checks for gun purchases, the Gun Owners of America lobby group has a warning for Republicans on Capitol Hill: vote against background checks or face a showdown with the GOA in the next election.

“We'll be doubling down to make sure the House members realize that they're all up for reelection next year,” says Larry Pratt, the executive director of GOA.

Pratt contends that voting in favor of background checks is a vote against the Second Amendment and will lead to a government registry of gun owners.

"This is actually a vote on registering gun owners," Pratt says. "It's not a background check. The background check doesn't solve crimes, they don't prosecute under it, it's not a crime-fighting tool, but it does give the government a list of people who have guns, and they are very open in saying they are keeping the names."

Though the background checks bill crafted by Sen. Pat Toomey (R - Pa.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D - W. Va.) explicitly bans the federal government from creating a national firearms registry, Pratt is not convinced. Toomey now has a metaphorical red target on his back with Pratt, who says his leadership on background checks shows “you can be in Washington too long.”

“It makes me repent the time that I spent campaigning for him in Pennsylvania, and we will certainly hope to find somebody who could run a credible campaign against him,” he says.

A Toomey spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Some recent public opinion polls have suggested that a majority of Americans support background checks, but Pratt disputes the accuracy of those polls, saying he’s seen evidence that public opinion is more evenly split.

“A politician could make a big mistake, as many did in 1994 when they believed those polls, and then the only polls that counts was a measured on the first Tuesday of that November and a huge number of anti-gun voters in the House particularly went down,” says Pratt.

On whether there are some gun measures that the GOA could tolerate, Pratt says that the government’s attempts to regulate guns have only made Americans less secure.

“We're saying you got to take these laws off the books. All they do is get people killed by making it either hard to get a gun to defend yourself or illegal to defend yourself with a gun,” Pratt says.

To hear more about how Larry Pratt views voting for background checks as a vote against the Second Amendment, including how he thinks the country can best prevent against future tragedies like Newtown, check out this episode of Power Players.

ABC's Robin Gradison, Eric Wray, Betsy Klein, Alexandra Dukakis, Michael Conte, Paul Dougherty, and Ed Jennings contributed to this episode.