While Mississippi Republicans have crowed about their Second Amendment advocacy this legislative session, there's nothing inherently conservative about establishing what is, in effect, a secret gun registry.

With Mississippi Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker under fire for his vote to allow a Democratic-backed gun control bill to proceed that could ultimately mandate a national background check, Second Amendment concerns are mounting.

Bearing arms is a basic constitutional right and isn't comparable to registering a vehicle, possessing a drivers license or paying property taxes.

Gun ownership is a constitutional right, not a privilege granted by the state.

Although the background-check amendment in the U.S. Senate would not technically mandate registration, it would only be a matter of time should the amendment survive.

Prominent gun-rights advocate Alan Gottlieb claims the proposed federal legislation is harmless. "If you really read what's in the Manchin-Toomey bill - man, it's a godsend," he said in The Washington Times. "We win rights back like crazy."

That's outrageous. Mr. Gottlieb has a trust of government the Founders never had nor intended the people to have.

Unlike a spending bill, a basic constitutional right can't on principle be debated. Either you're for gun control or you're not.

Wicker has been a strong and consistent supporter of the Second Amendment, so there's no concern he's wandered over to the dark side.

Wicker defenders say if Republicans are afraid to debate, the GOP will lose the gun control argument.

The senator predicts the gun bill will never get out of the Senate. The debate is a way of putting Democrats on record, he insists. And besides, the NRA asked him to do it.

While we generally have no qualms with the NRA, they may not always know best.

Of course in all of this what the country is missing is an opportunity to debate what's causing the gun violence and to address serious mental health issues.

Appearing on CBS News' Face the Nation on Sunday, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said Newtown, Conn., families have told him they know the gun bill he and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) have crafted would not have prevented the heinous massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary that prompted all of the gun debate in the first place.

Manchin said the families to whom he's spoken just keep urging him to do something in hopes that somewhere down the road new gun control legislation will "prevent one family from...going through what [Newtown] families went through."

Sen. Toomey was also on Face the Nation and said: "I acknowledge, there's no single bill that is a panacea for [gun crime], nothing guarantees that a committed criminal isn't going to find a way to get a gun."

Connecticut had the fifth most stringent gun control laws in the nation when Adam Lanza burst into Sandy Hook Elementary.

Connecticut's tough gun control laws include background checks and an assault weapons ban.

Guns aren't the problem. Violence is.

Conservatives should be defending our basic constitutional rights, not debating them.

Principle should always trump politics when it comes to protecting any constitutional right.