September 04, 2004

Gun Owner Influence In Elections

Evan Derkacz Writes in The Athens News about The NRA's influence at the polls. The piece is called Does Kerry have a chance to wing some of the NRA vote?. It raised some interesting points but makes some errors in fact & logic. Let's get to them.

It starts off with two clips portraying Kerry as a sportsman. Then it moves on to the following:

"Quicker than you can say 'Charlton Heston, Defender Of Liberty, NRA Commemorative Coin,' Americans, 80 million of whom own guns, will cast their vote for president. To woo these voters, each candidate must decide just where to position himself on the political tightrope that is the Second Amendment.
And it's a perilous balancing act, indeed."

What exactly is so perilous? Not pissing off the 80 million gun owners while trying to disarm them? It's really simple: don't try to take away their guns & odds are you won't piss gun owners off.

"With the predominantly rural 'gun-rights' activists on one side and an emerging 'gun-control' movement on the other, even a modest misstep can cost an election -- as Al Gore learned in 2000."

Now we're starting to get into the heart of the errors in logic, which are based partially on errors in fact. I won't argue that Gore & others have lost races in part because of their views towards gun control, but the author is trying to portray it as a contest between voters with differing views.

Can anyone tell me of a single politician who has lost an election because an anti-gun group pushed for his defeat? Who has lost an election predominantly because they were for less gun control than their opponent?

The gun issue is not a tight rope, with a slip on either side costing votes. The gun issue is a sledge hammer, with a misstep leading to concerned gun owners voting for another candidate. With the Democrats this is less true than with the Republicans. Contrary to common belief there are probably just as many democrats who own firearms as there are republican gun owners. The difference is the republican gun owners are generally more politically active than their democrat counterparts. With the democrats guns simply don't rate as high a priority as other issues do. I generalize & I am by no means saying this is a steadfast rule without exception, but in general republican gun owners shape republican elections to a larger extent than democratic gun owners effect democratic elections.

If a republican is for more gun control, a lot of republican gun owners will vote against him. With democrats who are for more or less gun control it doesn't usually shift their bases support to as large a degree. This is in flux at the moment, but it's not accurate to portray the gun issue as something that is hazardous to an election on both sides: it's the gun owners who want less gun control who make it an issue, not the electorate who wants more civilian disarmament.

Where the danger for pro gun politicians comes in is not from the voters per se, but from the groups that want more gun control. It affects campaign support (money, endorsements, etc...) which in turn can affect votes but that's a bit different than the implication made that the voters punish people who are pro gun.

"The most common mistake when courting, combating, or talking about the NRA is to view the issue of gun control the same way we do, say, abortion rights -- a single issue whose supporters and opponents have nearly identical positions and can be counted on to vote for a particular party. The NRA is much closer to an anti-war coalition whose members have a wide range of views and affiliations. And its leadership's ability to galvanize significant electoral support often depends on the specific policy or electoral race at stake."

No, the most common mistake is to use the NRA as the example of a pro gun organization. Or rather, to insert "NRA" when another term would better suit the intended idea: politically aware gun owners. The NRA is the biggest single organizations which lobbies concerning the gun issue but we're talking 4 million members. There are 80 million gun owners (as estimated) in this country. To frame the debate in terms of the anti-gunners versus the NRA is inaccurate.

But the NRA does wield some influence & I'll agree that it’s candidate & locale specific as to how much influence they have.

"Although Kerry seems to have learned from Gore's mistakes and Bush has lost favor among some of the vigilant Second Amendment crowd, conventional wisdom grants NRA endorsement -- a lock for Bush -- a great deal of political weight. The NRA has been heavily involved in politics since at least 1980, when it endorsed Ronald Reagan for president. Since then, it has become the bogeyman of many a political campaign, wielding clout beyond its numbers, and is largely responsible for what many consider to be some of the world's most reckless gun-control policies. But does it deserve the mythic make-or-break reputation this time around?"

No, the NRA's clout is not really the NRA's clout. What happens is grass roots & other pro-gun orgs will work their asses off to get a candidate elected or a law passed, while the credit for those actions is given to the NRA. The NRA does have clout & does influence things, but the seemingly disproportional influence they have is attributable to the press being too damned lazy to properly credit the non-NRA pro-gun groups that have done so much for the cause.

Let me point something else out from that paragraph:

"...for what many consider to be some of the world's most reckless gun-control policies..."

I wonder who the many is? The socialist nations of western Europe? The U.K.? Or perhaps the authors' friends & fellow (& I use the term oh so loosely) journalists?

"The story of the GOP's relationship with the NRA and the gun-rights movement as a whole is one of a roller-coaster effort to tame the movement's predominantly libertarian sympathies into a faction of the Republican party -- with varying degrees of success. NRA leadership often functions as a liaison between the Republican Party and its membership, often testing its own political skills along the way. To that end, the board currently includes Bob Barr, whose previous job was to represent the state of Georgia in the U.S. Congress."

That I can more or less agree with. The GOP would like nothing better to do a little song & dance & gain the support of the NRA across the board. The problem, as was pointed out, is the libertarian leanings of a great many gun owners. Most gun owners fall on the individualist side of the line, whereas the big spending, big government republicans are on the collectivist side of things. You simply can't go duck hunting & convince Joe. A. Gunowner that you're on his side if you're raising taxes & expanding government power. So the GOP has a hit & miss record with the gun owners who comprise the NRA, despite the efforts of both the GOP & the NRA leadership.

It is not uncommon for the NRA to back a candidate with the best chance of winning (say an incumbent) even when there's a more pro-gun candidate on the ballot. They'll then boast about said candidate’s victory & imply if not state that it was due to their support. They support candidates because they're likely to win, & then claim some part of the credit for that win, thus improving their number of winners' picked & increasing their clout. This is not the only way the NRA operates, as in some cases they do back a pro-gun candidate that loses, but they use this trick often enough that it's worth mentioning.

"Still, while the NRA leadership is capable of talking a good Second Amendment game -- at least while appealing to the lowest common denominator -- most of its members tend to be pragmatic when it comes to policy."

That's ass backwards pure & simple. The NRA leadership has been catching hell form its members for some time for being too pragmatic. More precisely for compromising too much & supporting too much gun control.

"In a 2002 appearance, Executive VP Wayne LaPierre compared one gun-control group's effort to limit the Second Amendment to "a shadowy network of extremist social guerrillas... like Osama bin Laden." But when Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who has almost single-handedly kept the Assault Weapons Ban in play, was able to tack the ban's renewal onto an NRA-backed bill designed to provide gun manufacturers with immunity from lawsuits, the same LaPierre was ready to play ball."

First of all the bill was designed to protect gun manufacturers from frivolous lawsuits. For some reason the press tries to imply that it was strictly a bill to prevent gun makers from being sued for wrongdoing, which is what the above seems ot lead to. In actuality gun makers would only be exempt from lawsuits (had the bill passed that is) that were not the direct result of illegal sales on their part or not the rsult of faulty products. In other words it would keep you from suing Colt if your brother was killed by someone using a stolen gun, or if that someone had acted negligently & discharged the pistol without the pistol malfunctioning.

Second, the last paragraph backs my assertion that the NRA management talks a good game but is too willing to compromise.

"Here's how it went down, according to former NRA executive and gun industry lobbyist Robert A. Ricker:
'The tension between pragmatic NRA leaders and the minuscule number of diehard right-wing board members played itself out in the debate over the immunity bill. According to insiders, LaPierre was willing to accept a renewed assault-weapons ban in exchange for passage of gun-industry immunity. But when the far-right factions of the NRA found out, Wayne's world came crashing down. The NRA was forced to issue a statement denying any deal and ultimately had to oppose final passage of the immunity bill with the assault-weapons ban and gun-show amendments attached."

Ricker is so close to telling the truth. Unfortunately truth requires a bit more accuracy than hand grenades.

It was not the far right factions of the NRA board who forced LaPierre to change his mind about dealing with the enemy: IT WAS US.

Look at the guy's own words. In the first half of the paragraph he speaks of the minority of die hard gun nuts on the NRA board, but then later claims this minority forced the majority to change it's compromising tune. How? It's the NRA board so I'll assume that drawing a pistol & telling the rest of the board how to vote won't work, as the rest of the board have pistols too.

I'll tell you how that happened. When you & I & a few thousand other politically aware gun owners got wind of an NRA deal that would allow the "assault weapons" ban to be renewed along with a law that would have closed down every gun show in the nation, we raised hell. Not just with the Senate, but with the NRA itself. LaPierre didn't rethink his sinful ways because a few board members had guilty feelings & a few others actually had backbone & principles. He did it because a large portion of gun owners, most of them NRA members, called their NRA reps & told them they were tired of being sold out for the politically expedient cause de jure the NRA thought it could benefit from.

Ricker is not to be trusted. He tells just enough of the truth to make it plausible, but his bias alters enough facts & conclusions to not grant him credibility to either fact or conclusion.

"Ricker says, 'The power of the gun lobby is more perception than reality.' In fact, he claims that even among the NRA's 4 million members, 'many of these join only to get the gun magazines or insurance. They believe in the Second Amendment but understand that an AK-47 isn't a hunting rifle.' It often puts them at odds with the group's top brass that so often parrots GOP talking points to suggest that they're actually more politician than freedom fighter. At its convention in April in the gun-saturated swing state of Pennsylvania, NRA President Kayne B. Robinson warned members,'In Kerry's America, guns and hunting are like polo and yachting -- for the elite."

There is some truth to the perception of the NRA's power being exaggerated for reasons I pointed out earlier. The gun lobby however is another story, since typically the phrase is used to cover any & all pro Right To Arms groups or individuals. Hell, I'd be surprised if a dog with a collar emblazoned with a medallion in the shape of a Garand wasn’t' considered the gun lobby by the anti's. & yes, Ricker, along with most journalists, falls into the "anti-gun" camp.

Another reason why the NRA seems more powerful than it may be is the membership; 4 million or so strong. That's a lot of votes & politicians will pay attention to any group that boasts 4 million members. But the numbers don't tell the whole story.

I'll grant that there's a portion that joins the NRA for the benefits - insurance, hats, etc. But there's a larger portion that joins the NRA because they have to.

The NRA offers deals on insurance to gun clubs, with the caveat that the gun club has 100% NRA membership. In order to join the club you have to join the NRA. I was about to join a gun club here in Colorado as public ranges are not ideal for the kind of shooting I like to do (the nearest suitable one for my needs being about a 2 hour drive). I went to a membership meeting & they asked me to put my NRA number on the already filled out application I handed them. I told them I wasn't a member. They began to tell me how easy it was to join when I interrupted them to explain that I hadn't just neglected to join the NRA - it was a deliberate decision because the NRA compromised too much in the name of my Rights & I'd be damned if I'd fund them to sell me out. This started a ten minute bitch session amongst the people there, all of whom were griping about the NRA's lack of fortitude when it came to opposing gun control. Then they calmed down & explained that in order to get the insurance rate they were getting they had to affiliate with the NRA & part of that was requiring all its members to be NRA members. They couldn't afford to operate without the insurance deal the NRA afforded them, so they couldn't accept me as a member until I joined the NRA.

Add onto that countless thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of competitive shooters who are obliged to join the NRA to compete seriously. I shoot some matches here & there but I don't shoot to compete against the other shooters, so a lack of NRA membership doesn't adversely affect my goals. If I wanted to seriously compete, as many do, then I'd have to join the NRA.

I'd wager that the majority of NRA members are not happy with the NRA. Not because they're moderate on the gun issue & feel the NRA is too extreme as Ricker would have you believe, but because they feel the NRA compromises too much. They join or remain members of the NRA because of practical considerations like the ones I outlined above.

As for the AK-47 being different form a hunting firearm; how? The 7.62x39mm cartridge is a decent one for varmints such as coyotes & adequate for small deer at modest ranges. Hell, it's not much less powerful than the venerable old .30-30 Winchester so popular in lever actions. In many states hunting with a semi-automatic is legal. In Colorado it's fine as long as the magazine isn't capable of holding more than 5 rounds. Throw a 5 rounder in the AK-47 & it's a great little deer gun or coyote gun.

But that's avoiding the point, which is that hunting, while an important Right, is not the main purpose behind the 2nd Amendment. The 2nd Amendment was enacted to prevent the government from denying the people Arms that were suitable for martial use. Ricker, despite his credentials as an industry insider, seems to have missed the most important argument concerning the Right to Arms, which is that the people need guns for defense against government (foreign & domestic), not just for putting venison on the table.

I will grant that's it's dishonest to knock Kerry on the gun issue without knocking Bush, since they are virtually identical when it comes to the Right to Arms.

"But many Second Amendment fundamentalists, not so affectionately referred to as 'gun nuts,' are fed up with Bush. Sam Cohen, director of a New Hampshire NRA affiliate, asked Karl Rove 'whether President Bush was aware that many thousands of gun-rights activists around the country felt so strongly about this that we had drawn a line in the sand (my exact words), and would not support any politician -- even President Bush himself -- who supported this atrocious legislation."

"Gun nut" is not affectionately used by the press or the anti's (that was redundant wasn't it?) but amongst us "gun nuts" we use the term with much affection. In fact I do think I'd be insulted if Say Uncle, Geek With A .45, The Smallest Minority, No Quarters & other fine blogs didn't refer to me as a "gun nut".

"Angel Shamaya, executive director of, a proud member of the Anybody But Bush crowd is equally disenchanted. 'Gun owners who know the issues know that Bush is all talk... He's turned out to be a phony in so many ways, I'm embarrassed I voted for him in 2000."

Mr. Shamaya is not in the "Anybody But Bush Crowd". He won't vote for Bush because he feels (& quite justifiably) that Bush betrayed him & other gun owners. That is not to say he'll vote for anybody but Bush. I haven't spoken with him about his choice or read any statements from him about it, but odds are he'll go with Badnarik of the Libertarian Party or Peroutka of the Constitution Party. It's disheartening to think that a person is either voting for Bush or for anyone else but him. That seems to be how some think, & it's possibly the only way they can grasp not voting for Bush or Kerry. It's a shame a principled choice in an election is so foreign an idea to so many that they mistake it for merely voting for anyone else but Bush.

"In sum, the gun lobby today is divided into at least three camps: A political leadership more interested in electing Republicans and strengthening connections with the Washington elite; strict libertarians less interested in Bush's second term than in the Second Amendment; and sporting enthusiasts who like the magazine."

I can tentaively buy that. Though I'd alter the last category slightly (perhaps Fuddites who like free stuff would be more appropriate?). But that would mainly be applicable to the NRA, not necessarily the entire gun lobby, of which I & my cats are members.

"The value of an NRA endorsement should not be underestimated: Since 1980, with it, no Republican candidate has lost an election; without it, no Republican has won."

In part because the NRA won't back a pro-gun candidate unless he has a good chance at winning. In some cases it's a catch 22 - they won't support someone unless they have a good chance of winning, but they won't have a good chance of winning without NRA support.

"One such success story was the 2000 presidential election. Not only did the group endorse Bush, it sold a video optimistically proclaiming that with him, 'we'll have a president... where we work out of their office."

& I would point out that it was not solely the NRA endorsement: Gore had a bad reputation amongst gun owners. Being Clinton's vice president didn't help that out one bit. The only way the gun owner votes could have been altered would have been for the NRA to tell everyone to concentrate on the congressional races & write off the presidency this time around (much like they did in 96).

"Last month, while promoting his new book on 'The Charlie Rose Show,' Bill Clinton didn't mince words when explaining why Gore lost in the former president's home state: 'I'll tell you exactly what happened in Arkansas... The NRA beat him in Arkansas. The NRA and Ralph Nader stand right behind the Supreme Court in their ability to claim that they could put Bush in the White House."

No. It was not the NRA but the "gun lobby". That ever elusive (to the press) gathering of "gun nuts" (politically aware gun owners) in a common cause deserves much if not most of the credit. But the press finds it easier to attribute the NRA with our successes, as do most politicians. Just remember that when he speaks of the NRA, or when most people speak generally of the NRA, they really mean you - the "gun nut", the politically aware gun owner.

Though I admit it was a nice grouping on Herr Klinton's part: blaming the NRA (actually us), third parties (Nader specifically) & the judiciary for causing Gore to lose the election. That's three-quarters of the VRWC. If only he could have mentioned the religious right...

"Guns played a major role in securing Bush victories in Arkansas, West Virginia, Tennessee, Florida and New Hampshire (whose license plates succinctly capture the libertarian streak in the gun rights' rank and file: 'Live free or die'). West Virginia is historically a Democratic state. Before 2000, Democrats had carried the state in three consecutive presidential elections, five of the past six and eight of 10."

See, he keeps making reference to the rank & file "gun nut" (politically aware gun owner) being more libertarian than most. This contradicts the assertions that gun owners are more pragmatic than the gun rights groups leadership.

"Party affiliation was not the problem for Al Gore; it was about guns, plain and simple. According to the Congressional Quarterly, 'Bush is credited with carrying the state because it has a sizable population of Democrats who favor gun owners' rights...' Even more surprising is the fact that Gore lost his home state of Tennessee -- the first time a major presidential candidate had accomplished this feat since George McGovern's doomed campaign of 1968."

As I said before, being anti-gun will cost you votes, while being pro-gun won't. The much spoken of soccer mom vote will not cross over to you simply because you support more gun control. They'll say thanks for doing that while voting for whoever they were going to vote for in the first place. But tell a gun owner his candidate is looking to pass more gun control laws & there's a good chance he'll vote against him. The Dems seem to know this (though why it hasn't caused them to change their pro-gun control platform is beyond me) but the Republicans don't fully appreciate the situation. This despite the Republicans being more apt to lose votes for supporting gun control. Hopefully that's starting to change, but I won't hold my breath.

"Then of course there's Florida where, at last year's NRA convention, Gov. Jeb Bush told members, 'if it were not for your active involvement, it is safe to say that my brother would not have been elected president."

Okay, some republicans do get it. Still Bush's support of gun control makes me think he doesn't. But again this may be changing. At least I hope it is.

"As Clinton and others have pointed out, the NRA poured its resources (including $16.8 million on federal campaigns as reported by the New York Times) into the election, pairing an effective phone-banking effort with a targeted ad campaign to spread its doomsday message that 'Al Gore wants to take away your guns."

Again it's not right to call Kerry anti without pointing to Bush's less than perfect record on gun issues.

"While Gore never proposed any such thing, the NRA's scare tactics received the unexpected assistance of one of his worst enemies: Al Gore. Though most gun-control groups insist that NRA influence was overblown, Kristen Rand, of the Violence Policy Center, disagrees. She points out that Gore's support for the licensing of all new handguns, which went beyond any measure then in Congress (and had virtually no chance of passing anyway), was a major miscalculation. According to Rand, it cleared the way for NRA activists to convince swing voters that Gore was, in NRA parlance, a 'gun snatcher': 'What was not understood was what a real rallying cry licensing would be. (For gun rights advocates) licensing equals registration; registration equals confiscation."

Many people do things they never come right out & say. But let's see what a quick search can produce.

From this site we find the following:

"I will not do anything to affect the rights of hunters or
sportsmen. I think that homeowners have to be respected in their
right to have a gun if they wish to. The problem I see is that there
are too many guns getting into the hands of children, and criminals,
and people who, for whatever reason, some kind of history of stalking
or domestic abuse really should not be able to get guns."
- Al Gore, October 11, 2000

Again hunters & sportsmen aren't the main object of protection in the 2nd amendment - it's you & me using martial Arms to defend against an intrusive government (be it foreign or domestic). But how does Gore think the "problem" he mentions will be solved? It is implicit he is talking about taking away guns from people, or preventing them from purchasing them in the first place. Granted, a small group of people who aren't particularly popular, but he's advocating taking away guns nonetheless.

The same site's summary of Gore's position:

"Gore Has a Common-Sense Plan to Reduce Gun Violence. Al Gore
has a common-sense plan to reduce gun violence that will keep guns
out of the hands of criminals and children, while ensuring that law-
abiding individuals still have access to firearms. Gore will require
child-safety locks on all new handguns to help save the lives of
thousands of children. Gore will seek photo licensing for handgun
purchasers, which will help keep guns away from criminals. He will
ban so-called "junk guns," the cheap handguns so often used in
violent crimes, and increase penalties for gun-related crimes. And
Gore will close the loophole in existing law that has allowed
criminals to avoid background checks by attending gun shows."

Now with the child safety lock law & the photo licensing, wouldn't non-compliance lead to confiscation in that individual's case? (& I'm ignoring the idea that thousands of children could be saved every year since thousands of children don't die very year from negligent discharges). He does call for a ban on inexpensive handguns which could include taken away guns frm gun owners, but denying the poor access to firearms is close enough for me to confiscation. As for the gun show "loophole", the bills I've seen that addressed that would close down gun shows nationwide thus depriving people of a source of arms. Again close enough to confiscation fr me.

From this page we see more of Gore's ideas about gun control:

"Gore announced today that he would ban firearms from places of worship and where school events are held, and highlighted his comprehensive anti-crime agenda. Gore also announced the administration�s support of a Senate proposal that would create a budgetary �lock-box� for law enforcement. �We need to seize upon the growing consensus that it is time to get guns away from those who should not have them,�" Press Release Apr 14, 2000

How does one get guns away from "those who should not have them"? That sounds like confiscation to me. The big question is who does he think should not have them? Am I a hunter, or sportsman or legitimate gun owner? & who the hell gets to decide which is which?

& banning firearms from churches, schools, etc, is the next best thing to confiscation. Ya see, keep & bear means to own & carry. By denying the ability to carry you're doing something as reprehensible as banning ownership. But again, wouldn't confiscation be the penalty for mere possession in a defense free zone that Gore would have set up?

In any case it is not implausible to deduce that Gore is not opposed to confiscatory measures. He merely prefers them for select groups, such as those who've been convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors or those who carry without permission. & the contention was that Gore wants to take away your guns. This would not necessarily be limited to confiscation of guns you already own, but could include banning guns you would like to own. A poor person might like to own an inexpensive handgun, but if they are banned as "junk guns" before he can save up the money, that in effect is taking a gun away from him.

"The marquee gun issue of 2004 is the Assault Weapons Ban. The NRA has thus far withheld from endorsing Bush officially, choosing instead to dangle it as a Sept. 14 carrot. On Sept. 13, the highly contentious Assault Weapons Ban will 'sunset' after 10 years if congress doesn't act to extend it. The ban targets semi-automatic rifles, pistols and shotguns with certain combat features but doesn't effect hunting rifles or guns designed specifically for sport."

Bullshit. A good many "assault weapons" were used for sport. In fact NRA Hi Power matches had to change its rules because the AWB affected them. I believe that NRA Hi Power is the most popular rifle oriented competition in this country. The origins of this sport were in contests the military had back in the early 1900's. This caught on with civilians as A; it was (& still is) fun & B; the government thought it'd be nice if potential soldiers (i.e. civilians who might get drafted if the need arises) were already familiar with basic marksmanship & the current issue military rifle. In fact there's a sub category called Service Rifle which is limited to as issued rifles of our armed forces (this would be the AR-15, M1A & M1 Garand). Now most M1A's were not "assault weapons" according to the ban. Well, at least the ones that didn't have a flash hider or folding stock. But a portion were, as were most AR-15's. Both of these types of rifles were used by tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of competitors every year. The AWB prohibited their new manufacture in their then current form.

So to say that the AWB didn't affect rifles that had a sporting purpose is bullshit. & also I will keep pointing out that the sporting purpose of the 2nd amendment was to hunt jack booted thugs.

"Polls show that nearly four out of five Americans -- including more than half of all gun owners -- favor the ban, putting Bush in an awkward political position. Fully comprehending the importance of the 'gun vote' to his campaign, the Bush team headlined a news release, 'Top 10 Reasons Why John Kerry Is Wrong for Rural America,' and placed his 'F' rating from the NRA at Number 4."

In fairness I must point out that Bush is not different enough from Kerry on the gun issue to deserve a higher grade, though the NRA will not be honest enough to state that.

The AWB is favored by so many because they don't understand what the ban does. Most think it's about machine guns. Hell, even a constitutional law professor I know spoke of machine guns when speaking of the ban. I guaran-damn-teeya that if both sides were honestly presented concerning the AWB its public support would dwindle.

"In a successful attempt to eat his cake and have it too, Bush has lent his verbal support to the ban's renewal but refuses to make any overtures to Congress. In turn, the Republican leadership, Dennis Hastert of Illinois and Bill Frist of -- you guessed it -- Tennessee, refuses to bring the bill to the floor saying it will only do so if prompted by the president."

It's sad that this seems accurate. Hopefully though Bush will have gotten the message that it could cost him votes he needs if the AWB is renewed. Still trusting Bush does not warm my heart.

"Voila! Bush strikes a pose for public safety while winking to his Second Amendment supporters. As for the bill, the signing of which would be 'political death' according to a lobbyist for gun manufacturers? It never reaches his desk."

Hopefully this is accurate. It speaks ill of Bush's character but it gives me a little hope that Bush has gotten the message that the ban could cost him the election.

"Which would be the whole story if the top brass of the NRA represented America's gun owners. Bush gets the NRA seal of approval; the whole of the gun-rights movement campaigns on his behalf; and he wins again."

That's the thing: the NRA leaders don't represent the majority of gun owners & many will have reservations about voting for Bush simply because of his support of gun control. Even if the ban passes they won't be happy about voting for Bush, which means they won't support him even if they vote for him.

"But there are several reasons why the GOP dreams of a replay are unlikely to come true.
To begin with, unlike 2000, when NRA ads were instrumental in defeating Gore, campaign finance laws now ban the use of corporate and labor union money for ads targeting a particular candidate (either pro or con) within 30 days of an election. This would, of course, severely hamper any advertising aimed at drawing a distinction between two candidates who, according to CBS News, 'hold the same position on the most pressing gun-control issues -- extending the assault-weapons ban, closing the gun-show 'loophole,' and strictly enforcing existing gun laws."

That's an assessment based on 2000. This is 2004. The level of involvement by pro gun websites, blogs, message boards, etc., will be enough to offset the trampling of free speech by senators McCain & Feingold. I hope. But it's true that Bush & Kerry both support those abominable gun control laws.

"Phone banking and other methods are an option but they require a sizable volunteer force and you don't get the same bang for your buck. In response, the NRA has created its own news agency, because, as LaPierre says, 'if you own the news operation, you can say whatever you want. If you don't, you're gagged.' NRA News may well survive legal challenges and successfully open a loophole in campaign finance law allowing them to broadcast editorials 24 hours a day to listeners. Problem is, NRA News hasn't really got any. The press has jumped all over its campaign finance shenanigans but the actual content and listenership of the 'news agency' hasn't registered a blip on anyone's radar."

I disagree. I for one have been ranting about candidates on this blog & will continue to do so. I'll post my thoughts on message boards & any other medium I see fit to use I'll use. Campaign finance laws don't apply to me, & even if they did I'd ignore the hell out of them. Now I'll grant my traffic isn't earth shattering, but the pro-gun bloggers, forums & other websites out there reach a sizable number. Perhaps more sizable than those that were persuaded by the NRA's ads in 2000. & I know of quite a few people who do check out the NRA's news site. I wonder what the author means when the claim that it hasn't registered on anyone’s radar is made? Is there some stats about daily visits he bases this on, or does he just not know of anyone who would watch it?

"Then there's the fact that the political and ideological wings of the gun-rights movement are often at odds, and never more so than during this election year. Many libertarians are up in arms at the Bush administration's cavalier treatment of the Bill of Rights. In the name of the 'war on terror,' the Patriot Act has turned certain rights -- illegal search and seizure, due process, right to counsel, trial by jury, cruel and unusual punishment; aka amendments 4 through 8 -- into mere contingencies."

I'd have mentioned amendments 1, 2, 9, & 10 as well.

"A writer for a prominent libertarian blog caused a ripple in libertarian circles recently by proclaiming, 'This is really the first presidential race of my adult life in which I've had a very strong commitment about which major-party candidate was the lesser evil.' The 'lesser evil' he's referring to, the one he's voting for in November, is John Kerry."

It's simplified so I don't know if I agree with his reasoning or not, but I can see arguments being made for why Kerry would be the lesser of two evils in the long run. Nevertheless the lesser of two evils is still evil.

"Democrats can also breathe easier knowing that Kerry is no Al Gore. While Gore took to gun-control rhetoric -- presumably seeing, in the anti-gun million-mom march, a million polling levers pulled in his direction -- Kerry has heeded the lesson and taken up arms. Waving his shotgun, he eagerly identifies himself as a lifelong hunter and is even reported to be a good shot. In a well-publicized photo op last Halloween in Iowa, he shot a couple of pheasants like a pro. Kerry is clearly aiming to persuade moderate gun owners -- those who understand that the AK-47 isn't a hunting rifle -- that their guns are their guns."

& this reporter believes Kerry is fooling somebody? Again, an AK-47 is a hunting rifle. It can be decent for deer but it's great for the 2nd amendment authorized hunting of jack booted thugs.

"Yet, Kerry could attach a shotgun rack to his campaign jet and still be opposed by the NRA leadership. More important is the fact that in the end the imprimatur of the NRA isn't as decisive as it is rumored to be. As long as the gun-rights movement remains fractured into Second Amendment fundamentalists, GOP-connected politicos and sportsmen in it for the freebies, the NRA isn't quite the bogeyman it once was."

The NRA could give Kerry an "A" rating, present him with a gold inlayed Brown Bess & have Charleton Heston literally kiss his ass. It would not alter Kerry's record on guns or the view that most gun owners have of him. He's too anti-gun to convince anyone he's pro-gun. In fact his attempts are dangerously close to the "let them eat cake" mentality that will betray that he has no clue about what the issue really is.

& again the NRA itself isn't the main force to contend with - it's all the grass roots groups as well as the individual gun owners. I will grant that if the NRA grew a backbone & some principles (i.e. stopped compromising & started actually defending the Right to Arms) it would be a force to be reckoned with. This is not the case now though & it's unlikely to be the case in the future.

"And when the NRA begins to crop up in Democrats' nightmares, they should remind themselves that the most abhorred 'gun snatcher' in the consciousness of the gun-rights movement is William Jefferson Clinton -- a man who made it to the White House, twice."

They should also remember we all gave up on the presidency in 96 to focus on Congress (the body that actually passes laws). In 92 we gave up on the presidency because we were unhappy with Bush's gun control. Dems should remember that gun owners were responsible (at least in part) for 92, 94, 96, 98, 2000 & 2002. Go through those years & see where a gun control candidate won despite our opposition. Our active oppostion. You'll find it happens much less frequently than a gun controller losing because of our opposition.

There were some good points made by the author, but I fear the confusing of the NRA leadership with its members, reversing their roles, & attributing to the NRA what belongs to a broader group of gun owners made the conclusions he drew from those observations inaccurate.

Gun owners will influence this election & many to come. Supporting gun control is not a winner for republicans. In fact some dems feel the ire of gun owners at the polls. Hell, in Missouri the governor lost his own primary in large part to his veto of a CCW bill (which, while being gun control is perceived as pro-gun by most), & he was a dem.

The thing is government, the two big parties & the press all hate to acknowledge that. They hate even worse to act upon it. Don't let them convince you that you're less influential than you are. & keep paying attention & acting. If politically aware gun owners become lethargic, then we'll have to resort to the bullet instead of the ballot to keep our guns. If we remain active & encourage others to join our ranks, we stand a chance of having our Rights respected.

Posted by Publicola at September 4, 2004 06:01 AM

did you see this?

Posted by: annika at September 7, 2004 10:38 AM

Yes I did miss Annika, but I appreciate you letting me know.

I might write something on it after the Senate shuts down today, but I think Instapundit & The Volokh Conspiracy, along with Heartless Liberatian & Say Uncle have it covered.

Posted by: Publicola at September 7, 2004 02:08 PM
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