GUN LOBBY ON A ROLL
The Year of the NRA
Is it pure coincidence that the best year ever for the gun lobby happened to be the first year of the Obama administration?
By Bill Schneider, 1-07-10
UPDATED, January 8, 10 am. See Update at end of article.
I’ve left 2009 behind, almost. Bear with me for one more look back.
Remember the insane paranoia among gun owners during the 2008 election season and throughout most of 2009? The gun lobby whipped firearm owners into a fervor before and after the election of Barack Obama and a Democratic Congress with dire predictions about the impending demise of the Second Amendment if not all freedoms we cherish.
I wrote several commentaries
saying the opposite--basically that a lot of Democrats are pro-gun, pro-2A, and many others wouldn’t touch the gun issue because it’s a political poison pill.
So, what happened?
Well, I was a bit off in my prediction. Democrats in Congress and many state legislatures did “touch the gun issue,” but ended up posing no threat our right to bear arms. Quite to the contrary, they probably passed more pro-gun laws than any year in history.
Therefore, may I suggest that the National Rifle Association
(NRA), probably the most powerful lobby in our country and the architect or facilitator of most new pro-gun laws as well as court victories, should erect a statue of Barack Obama in front of its D.C. headquarters. Obama, with help from his fellow Dems throughout the country, has done more for firearm owners than any President in recent history, including vocally pro-gun Republicans.
And firearms manufacturers? Wow! While the rest of our economy tanked, they thrived, possibly having their best year ever in 2009, so perhaps the National Shooting Sports Foundation
(NSSF), the main trade organization for gun and ammo makers, should also have an Obama statue in front of its office out in Newtown, Connecticut.
What follows is hardly a complete list (yep, there’s more!), but here are a few of the most significant pro-firearm, pro-2A successes of 2009, the Year of the NRA:
Finally, a Real Bipartisan Issue.
Are we all getting tired of politicians championing bipartisanship, but never doing it? Well, I say the right to bear arms is emerging from our two-party system as a true bipartisan issue.
Perhaps the most notable testimony to that claim was the amendment to H.R. 627, the so-called ”MasterBlaster Bill
,” which reformed credit card regulations. Credit card reform might have been “must-pass,” but the amendment to allow loaded, concealed firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges certainly wasn’t. Nonetheless, Congress easily approved the amendment and President Obama didn’t object to it as he immediately signed the bill.
Nowadays, most politicians are so gunshy about a recordable vote casting them as anti-gun and lowering their NRA grade--therefore making them vulnerable to defeat in the next election--they go to untold lengths to avoid it. But when they can no longer avoid taking a stand, most vote for guns and the 2A, including a lot of those purportedly anti-gun Democrats. On the national park gun amendment, the votes were 67-29 in the Senate and 279-147 in the House, with 27 Democratic Senators and 105 Democratic Representatives joining all but two Republicans in each house to form a veto-proof, pro-gun, bipartisan majority standing up for the 2A.
Having checked the lists, it’s clear that the gun issue is no longer related to which party, but instead, which state. Politicos hailing from urbanized states, mostly on the Left Coast and in the Northeast, still dare to vote against the 2A, but geographically, not in the rest of the country, particularly in southern and western states.
Representatives of populous states like Illinois and New York continue to introduce anti-gun bills, but none have gotten any traction. The 110th Congress, in fact, introduced 8,996 bills, but only 112 (1.3 percent) were signed into law, so clearly, anti-gun bills aren’t making the cut.
But not so with pro-gun bills such as an NRA-backed bill to allow Amtrak travelers to transport firearms in checked baggage, which has already cleared the House. Ditto for a bill prohibiting the Department of Defense from destroying certain outdated and unused military firearms, ammo and components, so they can go back into the marketplace.
States Strengthen Gun Laws.
In the past two years, mostly in 2009, according to a nationwide review by The Associated Press, 24 states, mostly in the South and West, passed 47 new pro-gun laws.
“The NRA has a stranglehold on a lot of state legislatures,” Kristin Rand, legislative director the anti-gun Violence Policy Center
admitted in the AP report
. “They basically have convinced lawmakers they can cost them their seats.”
Here’s a sampling of this success:
Arizona, Florida, Louisiana and Utah stopped businesses from barring employees from storing guns in cars parked on company lots….
Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, South Carolina and Virginia made some or all handgun permit information confidential….
Arizona, Kansas and Montana allowed handgun permits to be issued to people who have had their felony convictions expunged….
Montana and Tennessee exempted weapons made and owned in-state from federal restrictions…
Tennessee allowed gun owners to take firearms onto sports fields and playgrounds….
Montana, Ohio and Texas joined 21 other states in passing the Castle Doctrine, the so-called Stand Your Ground Law, which allows people to defend themselves with firearms from intruders without criminal or civil consequences…and many legislatures allowed firearms to be carried in cars, made it illegal to ask job candidates if they own a gun, and expanded agreements that make permits to carry handguns in one state valid in another state.
“This is all a coordinated approach to respect that human, God-given right of self defense by law-abiding Americans,” NRA chief lobbyist Chris W. Cox told AP. “We’ll rest when all 50 states allow and respect the right of law-abiding people to defend themselves from criminal attack.”
In June 2008, the Supreme Court overturned a handgun ban imposed by local government officials in Washington, D.C. and at the same time validated, for the first time, but with a narrow 5-4 vote, an individual’s right to bear arms.
“This is a great moment in American history,” declared NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre after the decision. “It vindicates individual Americans all over this country who have always known that this is their freedom worth protecting. Our founding fathers wrote and intended the Second Amendment to be an individual right.”
The NRA shepherded this historic case through the court system, but to me, the most amazing point was an Amicus Brief
supporting Dick Armstrong Heller in his case
against the D.C. gun law. Notably, 55 members of the U.S. Senate and 250 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including nine Democratic Senators and 67 Democratic Representatives, signed the brief.
Even “ObamaCare” Scare Tactic Scores.
Those who don’t follow the gun rights issue might not know about the Gun Owners of America
(GOA), a group positioned, politically, right of the NRA and often calling themselves “Bitter Clingers.” The GOA was formed because members thought the NRA was too wimpy in its efforts to protect the 2A.
Throughout 2009, the GOA had this fanatical idea about health care reform legislation being a secret Democratic plot against the 2A, even though the 2,000+-page bill didn’t contain the words “gun” or “firearm.” This craziness was little more than an anti-Democrat, anti-Obama campaign, and easily dismissed as such by most, but viola,
it still worked!
Although who knows what will come out of the conference committee in the final bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), specifically to pacify the GOA, inserted last-minute language into the Senate bill stating that no wellness program implemented under health reform could require disclosure or collection of any information relating to gun ownership.
The fact that this occurred and was done by a Democrat should tell us all we need to know about the politics of the gun issue.
More Americans Support Guns, NRA Membership Soars.
Remember James Watt, the arch-enemy of the environment appointed as Interior Secretary by President Ronald Reagan? Did he destroy the planet? Nope, but he did double the membership of the Sierra Club, so there’s another good idea for a statue.
Has Barack Obama tried to take away our right to bear arms? Nope, but he did sign the most pro-gun law passed in many years and prompted hundreds of thousands of Americans to join the NRA, now 4 million strong.
In turn, the NRA scored repeatedly in the court of public opinion. At the end of 2009, support for the 2A was higher than it has been in decades. A CNN poll found support for more restrictive gun laws declined from 50 percent in 2007 to 39 percent in 2009. In addition, a 2009 Gallup poll found that 71 percent of Americans now oppose a ban on handguns.
A Lot More People Now Have Guns.
According to the NSSF, the number of background checks (required for people buying guns) has gone up 43 percent in 2009, following a 31 percent increase in 2008. One month alone, September 2009, had 1,093,230 background checks.
More guns mean more crime, correct? Nope, All categories of violent crime decreased in 2009, including a 10 percent reduction in murders.
In conclusion, you might not agree with all the NRA does or how it does things, but you have to agree that the gun lobby gets the job done for gun owners and puts up an almost impenetrable defense of the Second Amendment.
This brings me back to my Big Bet. In an earlier commentary
, I promised to re-join the NRA if President Obama or the new, blue Congress passed any major anti-gun laws, such as a reauthorization of the Assault Weapon Ban.
If I win, I hope all the gun guys who thought I was merely a crazy, left-handed “Fudd” would take up a collection and buy me an AR-15.
Regrettably, no commitment on that, but actually, I’ll be satisfied with just being right, even if I have to buy my own AR.
I have three years to go before declaring victory, but what happened in 2009 makes me mighty comfortable that I made the right wager. And even though gun rights advocates must remain vigilant, after what happened--and didn’t happen--in 2009, they need not stress so much because they obviously have the Force within them. It’s called the NRA.
Footnote: For more NewWest.Net articles and commentary on guns and the NRA, click here.
(January 8, 10 am):
In the above commentary, I noted that “there’s more,” and readers helped me verify this by providing this additional testimony that the NRA is getting the job done for firearm owners.
More on “ObamaCare.
The NRA, not just the GOA as I indicated, worked on the ObamaCare issue. The NRA worked with Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to draft the pro-gun amendment inserted into the Senate bill by Senator Reid. It’s very unlikely the House will try to remove this pro-gun amendment, given the politics of the gun issue.
Congressional Opposition to AWB.
In March 2009, 65 Democratic congressmen signed a letter sent to Attorney General Eric Holder expressing their opposition to his call for reenactment of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, that expired in 2004.
The Ensign Amendment.
With this amendment, the Senate repealed the D.C. gun registration statute on a 63-36 vote, including 23 Democrats.
The Thune-Vitter Amendment.
This National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act scored 58 votes, including 20 Democrats, but two short of the 60 votes needed for passage. Only 39 Senators voted against it; three Senators were absent.
Pro-Gun Appropriations Riders.
All pro-gun appropriations riders, most on the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill, were adopted even though three of them were not included in the President’s Budget. The Wicker amendment (allowing Amtrak passengers to include an unloaded firearm in checked luggage) was included in the Transportation-HUD appropriations bill. A provision reversing the proposed federal regulation designating all “assisted or one-handed opening” folding knives was included in the Homeland Security appropriations bill. New protection for ammunition components and spent brass was included in the Defense appropriations bill.
Congress approved this amendment, which improved the armed commercial airline pilots program.
The House Financial Services Committee voted 38-31, including 13 Democrats, to protect the 2A rights of residents of public housing. Previously, the lawful possession or use of firearms in federally assisted housing had been prohibited.
Omnibus Public Land Bill.
Congress inserted a “sportsmen protection” provision in this massive bill to protect hunting, fishing trapping and recreational shooting.
Anti-Gun Efforts Go Nowhere.
Lawmakers spiked several, anti-gun provisions from various bills, including a call for Senate ratification of the anti-gun CIFTA (Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials) Treaty.
© 2007 NewWest
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