Heller to constituent one day before Manchin-Toomey introduced: We need to make background checks "more effective and efficient"

One day before the Manchin-Toomey gun bill was introduced and one week before he announced he would oppose it, Sen. Dean Heller told a consitutent in writing that "we can take reasonable steps to ensure that we do not infringe on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens while also keeping guns out of the hands of those who are potentially violent or mentally ill."

So what's the big deal?

Maybe there isn't one, but the letter, attached here, indicates that either:

1. Heller was seriously thinking of voting for a background check bill right up until it was introduced.

2. Heller wanted people to think he was seriously thinking of voting for a background check bill right up until it was introduced.

The letter, which I'm sure was sent to others, appears to be a rote recitation of the "reasonable steps" mantra Heller had been disgorging for weeks leading up to the vote. "The reality is that we need to take concrete steps to reform our current background check sytem to make it more effective and efficient.," he wrote.

So just one day before the April 10 introduction, Heller seemed unconcerned about a national gun registry and even encouraged information-sharing "between states and our national background check system to ensure that it more fully encompasses individuals who may not be able to purchase firearms."

Although some might say that indicates Heller had no problem with a gun registry, it's a pretty clear reference to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. NCIS has some data, but not the kind of specific information about kind and number of firearms.

Heller clearly doesn't want to talk about this much beyond his statement opposing the bill, which actually repeats some of the language from the letter. "Senator Heller raised his concerns and negotiated in good faith with Senator Manchin," the senator's spokeswoman, Chandler Smith, told me. "Ultimately, he could not support the legislation."

I still believe that Heller simply decided that voting for the bill was too much flexibility even for a Republican who had bent on immigration and wears NO LABELS. The Review-Journal's Steve Sebelius neatly dissected Heller's reasons, cutting him more slack than I do on the gun registry issue.

I think that is a red herring -- the bill prevents the attorney general from forming a gun registry, and there is not a scintilla of evidence that other agencies were contemplating doing so or want to. So Heller -- and he was not alone -- used the gun registry as a way to vote against a bill that seems to accomplish exactly what the senator said he wanted in that letter.